Talk about a mismatched duo. Elizabeth (Witherspoon) is a workaholic doctor who's on a 26-hour shift when we first meet her (before the accident). David (Ruffalo) is a melancholy widower who doesn't do anything but sit on the sofa. Hardly soulmates, you might think, but if movie romances have taught us anything it's that love overcomes all obstacles...
They've also taught us that the barriers between the living and dead - or, in this case, the living and the spirit of a comatose woman - can be similarly bridged. Demi got to snog Patrick in Ghost, after all, and comparable life-and-death clinches can be seen in movies as diverse as Truly, Madly, Deeply and The Shining. So when David tells a mate, "I'm seeing someone", we know exactly what he means even if his buddy doesn't.
Just Like Heaven works best, if it works at all, when it's being a dramatic love story. It's here that Ruffalo utilises his soft, scratchy voice and sensitive-man charms, while Witherspoon's innate sweetness warms up what had previously been a brittle, lifeless comedy. Watching Heaven drop the inane prattle and clockwork slapstick in favour of gentle romancing is like watching a corpse shake out its rigor mortis to step off the gurney and take a few faltering steps.
Do we care where it's headed? Not really - the characters' mutual destination is secure from their first argument. What we do care about is how a junior doc can afford a gorgeous apartment with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Or why the special effects are content to be so hollow and lazily retro. Or how Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Heder could follow up that instant-classic creation with a stoner-mystic sidekick that's, like, sooo yesterday.
The odd spark of charm and the occasional flash of chemistry aside, Just Like Heaven flounders in mediocrity from start to finish. Neither heaven nor hell, it'll leave you in listless limbo for 95 minutes.
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The director of Mean Girls. A quality cast. What should have been divine is brought clunking down to Earth by limp gags and tired storytelling.