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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Just Like Heaven



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#1 of 20 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted February 11 2006 - 09:08 AM

Posted Image
Just Like Heaven
Directed By: Mark Waters

Studio: Dreamworks
Year: 2005
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (Anamorphic)
Running Time: 1 Hr. 25 Mins.
Rating: PG-13 (Some Sexual Content)
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital (English, French), 2.0 Dolby Digital (English)
Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
MSRP: $29.99
Street Date: 7 February, 2006

Review Date: 11 February, 2006
(Ratings are out of five stars)

Summary
By rule I hate romantic comedies. There are a few notable exceptions that I allow myself to enjoy, but it’s pretty tough to crack through my anti-rom-com armor. On the other hand, I’m actually a big Mark Waters fan. I loved Mean Girls and I even enjoyed his Freaky Friday remake. Waters has a modern, effortless style that suits this type of material. With good writing (Tina Fey’s Mean Girls screenplay was fantastic), he does a hell of a job. Unfortunately, the screenplay for Just Like Heaven just isn’t that good.

Reese Witherspoon plays Elizabeth Masterson, a workaholic who never takes time out for herself. Lo and behold, after a long 26 hour coffee-fueled day of work at the hospital Elizabeth has a terrible car accident that ends with her death. Mark Ruffalo’s male lead, David Abbott, moves into the late Elizabeth’s apartment…and I bet if you graduated elementary school, you can see where this one’s going. What unfolds is a film that can’t decide whether it wants to be overly dramatic (ala Ghost) or more of a slapstick comedy. Hell, we even get to see Napoleon Dynamite himself as a hippie mystic. He’s not particularly funny, but hey…he’s Napoleon Freaking Dynamite!

Needless to say, I wasn’t a big fan of this film. It cheats the audience and uses contrivances to move the plot along. The final scene is the biggest cheat of all and left me scratching my head. Reese Witherspoon is energetic and fun in her performance, and Ruffalo isn’t half bad either, but neither are able to rise above the lackluster script. Waters’ style is pretty tight and the film looks very good, but again without a good screenplay to match, it’s just going though the motions. Even at an hour and a half, this one runs a little too long.

Film Rating: Posted ImagePosted Image

Video
The overall video quality was decent. Colors were very vibrant, but the picture was fairly grainy. I did notice some hints of edge enhancement during the higher contrast sequences. There was minor pixelation during the final scene of the film, but I think that was related the obvious blue-screen composite.

Video Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Audio
The audio was free of any major problems. Both the score and Waters’ music selection sounded very good. The film is primarily dialog driven and the voices sounded crisp and clear. There was very little sound out of the rear effects channels, but the front soundstage was very open and enveloping.

Audio Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Extras
Filmmaker Commentary – This commentary features Mark Waters, editor Bruce Green, and DP Daryn Okada. I sampled bits of the commentary and it seemed fairly interesting. Overall, it was pretty standard with a few behind-the-scenes anecdotes. I did learn this: Mark Waters says “like” and “kind-of” a lot.
The Making of Just Like Heaven (14:31) – This featurette quickly covers the major aspects of the film. It covers the adaptation from the original novel, the production of the film, etc. It’s pretty paint-by-numbers, but interesting if you are a fan of the film.
Meet the Cast (13:09) – This self-explanatory featurette examines the cast of the film. I may not have liked the film that much, but I’m a fan of most of the people involved.
Gag Reel (4:59) – A very series of behind-the-scenes mistakes and gags.
Deleted Scenes (5:37) – Four quick deleted scenes (including an alternate ending) that can be watched all at once or separately. Commentary from Mark Waters is also available.

This DVD also features some previews of other Dreamworks films.

Extras Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

In Closing…
Just Like Heaven wants to be two films at the same time: a touching romance film and a zany slap-stick comedy. Unfortunately it fails on both counts. An uninteresting screenplay that uses an overt amount of cheats and contrivances to manipulated the viewer is to blame for this dud. The primary cast is interesting and energetic, as is Waters’ style, but nothing could elevate the material above average at best. Rent this one if you have an addiction to sappy romantic comedies, but otherwise stay away. Hopefully Waters can team up with good screenwriter for his next go.

Overall Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Matt Stone
11 February, 2006
In Heaven, everything is fine.
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#2 of 20 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 11 2006 - 10:00 AM

Bought this blindly based on the trailer that
looked quite promising.

What a HUGE disappointment.

The movie absolutely lacks humor and charm. Furthermore,
there's just no chemistry between Witherspoon and
Ruffalo who almost seem embarrassed to be romping
amongst the weak script.

Coming off of her Oscar Nominated performance with
Walk The Line, I can't believe the talents of
Witherspoon are wasted on this complete dud!

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#3 of 20 OFFLINE   Paul Hillenbrand

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Posted February 12 2006 - 09:54 AM

Thanks for this review!

Didn't see the movie, but thought my wife would like it.

This was a 'Best Buy' blind purchase for us on Tuesday and I didn't want to open it until I read comments about it.

Glad we waited.

Paul
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#4 of 20 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted February 12 2006 - 10:50 AM

Well...sorry you didn't like this film Matt, and Ron...and Paul...Posted Image I did. In fact I thought it was a very sweet film. I took my daughters to see this when it came out last fall in theaters and we all loved it. Not perfect, but a nice clean, funny movie. Certainly, not all of it works but I thought the leads had good chemistry.

Guess I drank the koolaid. :b

Your image and sound reviews are close to mine though. Good stuff. Posted Image

#5 of 20 OFFLINE   Bill Thomann

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Posted February 12 2006 - 12:48 PM

Great review of the dvd. As for the movie though, I too liked it & am very happy with my purchase.

#6 of 20 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted February 12 2006 - 12:57 PM

I'm a little biased, because as I said in my review, I loathe romantic comedies. Needless to say, if you like the film, you'll be pleased with the DVD.
In Heaven, everything is fine.
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#7 of 20 OFFLINE   Ryan Wong

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Posted February 13 2006 - 12:24 PM

Reese Witherspoon is the new Meg Ryan. I enjoyed Just Like Heaven, as well as Sweet Home Alabama. They are just like Meg Ryan's Romantic Comedies.
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#8 of 20 OFFLINE   RogerH

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Posted February 13 2006 - 12:27 PM

The trailer does make it look kind of interesting I may rent it at some point.

#9 of 20 OFFLINE   Justin Hargis

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Posted February 13 2006 - 12:56 PM

I'm not a big fan of romantic comedies either, but I quite enjoyed Just Like Heaven at the theater. I ended up buying this for my wife for Valentine's Day.

#10 of 20 OFFLINE   PatW

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Posted February 13 2006 - 11:48 PM

Well I am a fan of romantic comedies and though I have others in my collection that I love more, I did enjoy this movie and will probably buy it. Matt, enjoyed reading your review.

#11 of 20 OFFLINE   Dave Scarpa

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Posted February 14 2006 - 01:25 AM

Yeah I actually thought it was a nice little movie and As romantic comedies go I thought it was sweet but not overly sappy, and the ending made sense to me
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#12 of 20 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted February 14 2006 - 04:22 AM

I tend to like romantic comedies and while I prefer the ones that really "rise above" (like Freaky Friday, Sleepless in Seatle, Clueless, and Legally Blonde) I often still enjoy the fault-ridden R.C. as long as it still rewards me in some way.

I may have to check this out...as a rental (if I get time between B.V. reviews! Posted Image )
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#13 of 20 OFFLINE   Derek K.

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Posted February 14 2006 - 05:06 AM

Pretty lame film.

Ruffalo's generally a terrific actor, but he couldnt rise above the material here.

Looks like he's able to make some bucks on Studio releases to satisfy his indie needs ...

#14 of 20 OFFLINE   John H Ross

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Posted February 14 2006 - 08:00 AM

I'm not very keen on romantic comedies either and I went into this expecting the worst but I absolutely LOVED it!!!

I thought the story was charming (although hardly original) and the performances were just adorable. I must make special reference to Rolfe Kent's score which is one of the finest of 2005 featuring not one but TWO jawdroppingly great themes in the grandest John Barry style.

The only scene that pissed me off was when Ruffalo is spilling his drink all over his mates in the bar. It's established before AND after this scene that Witherspoon can't make physical contact with him so why the comedy "invisible person" routine (other than for comedy's sake)?

Anyway - my copy's on its way from Amazon and I have no hesitation in recommending this to genuine romantics everywhere!! :-)

John

#15 of 20 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted February 15 2006 - 03:00 AM

I think this is one that grows on you some too. Sweet film that is enduring.

#16 of 20 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted February 15 2006 - 04:46 AM

Reading this thread makes me feel like the biggest stick in the mud Posted Image
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#17 of 20 OFFLINE   andrew markworthy

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Posted February 15 2006 - 05:10 AM

Quote:
I'm a little biased, because as I said in my review, I loathe romantic comedies.


Um ... why did you review it then? Posted Image

FWIW, I liked it. Not the greatest movie ever, but sweet enough to pass an undemanding evening.

#18 of 20 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted February 15 2006 - 05:52 AM

Quote:
Um ... why did you review it then?

Because he covers this studio.

The other option is either that he wouldn't have bothered at all (not fair to HTF members who would like to see it reviewed) or have tried to get it to another reviewer who really liked it so they could review it in his place.

The later is only really a practical option when it's a high-profile title that really *should* be reviewed by someone who "loves" the movie...like Ben-Hur or Lord of the Rings (it adds time and complication to try to shuffle discs around with street-dates approaching fast). In a few cases where I felt a movie really needed to be "fan reviewed" I passed it along (Sin City SE) but with most titles I review that I'm not wild about as far as the movie is concerned, I just take care not to let it degrade the quality of the review (certainly this review in question is just fine IMO).

In most cases, even if a movie isn't personally loved by the HTF reviewer, it doesn't prevent a fair discussion of the film and the HTF-important issues like video, audio, and special-feature presentation still get the same treatment regardless.

The nice thing about reviews at HTF is that they don't really revolve around the "movie review"...that's more a bonus thrown in by the reviewer along with the real meat of the *DVD* presentation review. Also great about HTF is that the open-forum discussion style allows other members who may have opinions entirely different than the reviewer to chime in and share their own persepctives with the readers.

We've really got a rare and wonderful thing going here with the DVD reviews at HTF given the open-feedback style of the discussion threads that follow each review posting. We should be proud!

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#19 of 20 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted February 15 2006 - 06:59 AM

Reading this thread makes me feel like the biggest stick in the mud


Posted Image Matt, we still care about you! :b

We've really got a rare and wonderful thing going here with the DVD reviews at HTF given the open-feedback style of the discussion threads that follow each review posting. We should be proud!


Amen! DaVid. Posted Image

#20 of 20 OFFLINE   Matt Stone

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Posted February 15 2006 - 09:52 AM

Well said, David.

Quote:
Um ... why did you review it then?


For better or worse, I review what they send. Hopefully I accurately summarize the audio/video/extras content for those of you who disagree with my opinion of a film.
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