Just Like Heaven is a romantic comedy that will please everyone, especially those who walked out of The 40-Year-Old Virgin because of its foul language. The only four-letter word in Heaven is “cute.”
Everything about this modern-day Sleeping Beauty tale works: immensely likeable stars, a terrific script that actually allows those stars to create believable characters, guidance from a director who wants to tell a story instead of showing off his repertoire of film techniques, and, most important, an easily accessible take-home “message” that is a lot more understandable than months in marriage counseling.
Elizabeth Masterson (Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blond) is a dedicated emergency-room doctor who takes no time for a personal life. On a rainy night on her way to visit her sister Abby (Dina Spybey, Freaky Friday), who is playing matchmaker yet again for Elizabeth, she comes face to face with a monstrous skidding truck.
Dissolve to: Landscape designer David Abbott (Mark Ruffalo, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), still grieving the death of his wife two years ago, is searching San Francisco for an apartment. After a wind-buffeted “For rent” flier smacks him in the face, he finally lands a treasure with large, sunny rooms, cozy furnishings, a view of the city and access to a huge rooftop. He settles in to transform the nice place into the usual single guy’s mess-a-rama, when suddenly a strange woman appears in front of his couch. She demands that he use a coaster to prevent water rings on her coffee table. Her coffee table?
Thinking the apartment is haunted, David goes through the usual routines to get rid of a ghost. He exits a metaphysical bookstore with an armload of books selected by the quirky owner, Darryl (Jon Heder, Napoleon Dynamite). He casts spells, hires a cassocked exorcist and a quartet of Chinese ghost busters. He even confesses his eerie sightings to his therapist (Donal Logue, American Splendor) — all to no avail. The apparition, who by now has figured out that her name is Elizabeth, keeps appearing, with no warning and no waning of her territorial tendencies. In fact, she’s downright bossy, following him to a bar, where she tries to prevent him from drinking. This is all quite hilarious, of course, because David is the only person who can see or hear her.
Daryl, who can sense the presence as well as the moods of detached entities, reminds David to “have some respect for the dead.” With Elizabeth in tow, David sets off to find her identity. They discover that she’s not a ghost after all: She’s a spirit, yes, but not of a dead person. Elizabeth’s body has been lying in the hospital in a coma for three months, fading fast. What’s worse is that without any increase in Elizabeth’s brain function, Abby has reluctantly signed the papers authorizing the removal of her sister’s life support.
A solution might be at hand, or should we say, might be careening down the hospital hallways. Can David put Elizabeth back together again? Is his love more powerful than all the marvels of medical science? A broken heart, a garden, a starry night, surprise, surprise, and then, aw, it’s cute.
Rated PG-13 for some sexual content
– reviewed by Marci Miller