"Just Like Heaven" is a romantic comedy with a not-so-subtle lesson: appreciate life before it's too late. Unfortunately for Elizabeth Masterson (Reese Witherspoon), the lesson wasn't learned before her untimely death. A workaholic, Elizabeth is a young doctor obsessed with her career. When she is suddenly killed, she angrily refuses to accept her own death, even remaining in her apartment as a spirit. David Abbott (Mark Ruffalo) is a widower whose wife died a couple of years ago. He relies heavily on alcohol and self-pity to cope with the loss. When he moves into Elizabeth's old place, he unknowingly incurs her jealous anger and soon, she is "haunting" him. After getting over his fear of having a spirit in his apartment, David demonstrates an equal amount of stubbornness and refuses to move.
Elizabeth is not quite a ghost and David is the only one who can actually see and interact with Elizabeth. They fight constantly, and David tries many methods of forcing Elizabeth from the apartment, but to no avail. After eventually falling in love, the two are faced with an enormous problem. Is there a way to bring Elizabeth back?
Directed by Mark Waters ("Mean Girls") "Just Like Heaven" is funny and sweet. We empathize with Elizabeth's regrets and David's sadness. There are several genuinely funny moments in the film, and the lead characters really play well off of each other. Reese Witherspoon ("Legally Blonde," "Vanity Fair") is in her element as a tough woman who just needs to open her heart; she's very good in roles that require a certain innocence... Mark Ruffalo ("13 Going on 30," "Collateral") is even better as a young widower at odds with himself after losing his focus in life.
"Just Like Heaven" was a writing collaboration, including the talented Leslie Dixon. Dixon has written many great screenplays, including "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Freaky Friday," and my favorite, "Pay It Forward." Although the film came close, it's saved from complete sappiness by the mostly witty dialogue. The close call was due to a plot that borders on being completely ridiculous, and impatience with wanting the characters to suck it up and move on already. "Just Like Heaven" was certainly enjoyable, but not memorable.
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NOTE: Ben Shenkman (Brett) is very good in his role as well as Jon Heder ("Napoleon Dynamite") who plays Darryl, the self proclaimed psychic who tries to help David.