Film Reviews


By • Sep 16th, 2006 •

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DreamWorks Pictures
A Parkes/MacDonald production
MPAA rating: PG-13 / Running time — 94 minutes

QUOTE: A solid, thought-provoking movie with charm.

I thought this would be a hard movie to review without giving away the major plot point. Then I saw the trailer on TV. It gives away the story twist. So, if you have a computer but not a TV, do not read any further. There’s a spoiler right ahead and Dreamworks will not mind my telling you.


The TV trailer shows you David (Mark Ruffalo) and Elizabeth (Reese Witherspoon) looking over a body in a hospital room. David says to Elizabeth: “You’re not dead. You’re in a coma!”

This must have been the thinking behind the TV trailer: The audience must know they can emotionally invest in Reese Witherspoon’s character. She is not a good-looking thin ghost in a great black pantsuit. There will be romance. This is not about psychic necrophilia. Go see the movie.

Elizabeth is a sainted attending physician at a San Francisco hospital. As a living embodiment of Mother Theresa, she works 26-hour ER shifts. She really cares about her patients. She doesn’t have a life outside the hospital but she does get mad when she “dies” in a car accident and finds a very depressed guy living in her apartment. She actually freaks out and gets haughty! She cares about using coasters on wood tables. She can’t remember her patients.

Elizabeth’s accident happens on her way to a blind date at her sister Abby’s (Dina Waters) house. It doesn’t take but a few weeks in a coma and Abby sublets Elizabeth’s apartment to David, who can afford a great apartment but has no income. Everything with Elizabeth’s name on it has been wiped cleaned from the apartment. Suddenly, Elizabeth appears. Then she disappears. Every time David gets messy, Elizabeth turns up and nags him with feisty remarks. She is really a hellion outside of the ER.

David, even though he is suffering from a major bout of depression, is smart enough to know that he is either hallucinating from too much beer or has gone insane. He goes to an occult bookstore where Darryl (Jon Heder), a psychic “expert,” advises him how to deal with his persistent ghost. David can almost count on his best friend, Jack (Donal Logue), a bar-hopping shrink who needs intensive therapy himself. Jack is the kind of friend we all need in a crisis.

JUST LIKE HEAVEN is a really nice sweet movie and Witherspoon is terrific. She’s matured and seems to enjoy now playing an intelligent woman. Ruffalo is again playing the same part he has done many times before. It’s either Mark Ruffalo or Paul Rudd these days. They are average-looking guys with sincerity written all over their faces. They don’t get in the way of the star or get any sexy close-ups. The script by Peter Tolan and Leslie Dixon (adapting Marc Levy’s novel “If Only It Were True”) is clever and whip-smart. We can trust Witherspoon, like Jodie Foster, to get “first look” at all scripts, and JUST LIKE HEAVEN is a solid, thought-provoking movie. Coming on the heels of the Terry Schiavo case, this movie makes a grand step forward in not pulling the damn plug on anyone. No matter what they once said. For the record, this is my declaration: If it ever happens to me, keep that damn feeding tube in. I want all heroic, expensive, and controversial procedures.

Elizabeth: Reese Witherspoon
David: Mark Ruffalo
Jack: Donal Logue
Abby: Dina Waters
Brett: Ben Shenkman
Darryl:Jon Heder
Katrina: Ivana Milicevic
Grace: Caroline Aaron
Fran: Rosalind Chao

Director: Mark Waters
Screenwriters: Peter Tolan, Leslie Dixon
Producers: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes
Executive producer: David Householter
Director of photography: Daryn Okada
Production designer: Cary White
Music: Rolfe Kent
Co-producer: Marc Levy
Costume designer: Sophie de Rakoff
Editor: Bruce Green

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