‘Just Friends’: An Unsung Holiday Classic

Just Friends, Amy Smart and Ryan ReynoldsNew Line Cinema via Everett Collection

The mid-aughts comedy Just Friends has become a staple on Comedy Central’s holiday schedule. Still, it’s never reached the level of respect it deserves as a reliable Christmas classic. Most of its marketing may have centered around former Sexiest Man Alive Ryan Reynolds donning a fatsuit, but I promise, that’s not the end of its appeal.

Reynolds plays Chris Brander, a former fat kid who escaped New Jersey for LA, lost a few hundred pounds, and reinvented himself as a skinny and suave record exec. (“This town’s full of losers and I’m pullin’ out to win!”) While flying to Paris with unhinged pop star Samantha James (Anna Faris, brilliant), the plane makes an emergency landing in his hometown. Chris is back at the same bar, sleeping in his same room, and crushing on the same girl — his former best friend Jamie (Amy Smart) — who still makes him feel totally awkward. Also, it’s Christmas!

Just Friends fills the first and foremost criteria for a holiday classic: it passes the rewatch test. Clever lines like “You’re Chris Brander. You’re Hollywood, you date models. He’s Jersey, he skis in his jeans.” just improve over time. Faris commits to the part of a Britney Spears-style pop tart who’s careening towards the eventual breakdown with total relish. Reynolds could always play a convincing loser, even with those looks. And his mom is the mom from What About Bob?, so what else is there to know? (“Be yourself! Be yourself!”)

Plus, anyone who has ever felt desperately uncool can identify with Chris’s instant regression. We never truly leave high school, so we better just get comfortable there and make it our own.