In 1995, Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) is an overweight high school student with a lisp, braces, and a "gentle giant" demeanor who secretly has a huge romantic crush on his classmate and best friend Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart). After confessing his feelings by writing them in Jamie's yearbook, he attends Jamie's graduation party. As he returns the yearbook to her, it is secretly swapped by her despicable ex-boyfriend, Tim (Ty Olsson), who reads the declaration aloud to everyone and humiliates Chris. Jamie doesn't reciprocate his romantic feelings; after they share a brief kiss on the cheek, Tim and the class burst in and humiliate Chris again. While Jamie admonishes them, Chris tearfully leaves the party, announcing that he would never return and vows to be more successful than everyone.
Ten years later, Chris has lost weight, is handsome, and lives in Los Angeles; he is a womanizer who has dated supermodels, starlets, and socialites, works as a highly successful record producer and also holds a position of senior vice president of the same record corporation he works for. Prior to Christmas, Chris's employer, company CEO KC (Stephen Root), asks Chris to accompany an emerging self-obsessed pop singer named Samantha James (Anna Faris) to Paris to ensure she signs with their label, an order to which Chris reluctantly complies. During the trip to Paris, Samantha accidentally sets her private jet on fire resulting in an emergency landing in New Jersey, near Chris's hometown.
Chris takes Samantha to his mother's house to spend the night and re-engages with his teenage past, including his unresolved feelings for Jamie. Samantha meets Chris's mother and 18-year-old brother Mike (Christopher Marquette) who has an enormous crush on Samantha. At the local bar, Chris encounters some old classmates, including his best friend Clark (Fred Ewanuick) and Clark's wife Darla (Amy Matysio); he also encounters Tim, who is now balding, fat, and a heavy drinker. Jamie also appears, working as a bartender to support herself through graduate school.
Chris plans to impress and seduce Jamie. He gets Mike to keep Samantha busy during his date with Jamie, but the realization that Jamie's platonic friendship is important to him hampers Chris's plan. During a friendly ice skating "day date", Chris is taken away in an ambulance after injuring himself. At the scene, Jamie is reunited with Dusty Dinkleman (Chris Klein), a paramedic and former high school nerd who was also romantically in love with her.
That night, in an attempt to rectify his situation, Chris again leaves Samantha in Mike's hands and takes Jamie to a movie showing of The Notebook. Jamie, however, brings Dusty along, and Chris's mother ends up joining them, ruining Chris's plan. Meanwhile, Samantha plays a gig at the heavy metal club that Chris sent her to, gets booed off the stage and assaults a member of the audience.
The next night, Chris goes to Jamie's for a Christmas party, planning to reveal his feelings for her, but he finds Dusty already there winning the guests over with his charm and musical talents. Back at Chris's place, Samantha ambushes Mike and pushes him against the bathroom wall demanding to find out Chris's location; fully aware of his feelings, she passionately tongue kisses him until he tells her where Chris has gone. In a rage, she drives to Jamie's house and crashes through her fence, destroying her family's Christmas decorations. Chris returns home in embarrassment, and Jamie follows him; she tells him she is not mad and they end up spending the night together catching up and looking at photos, but due to Chris's continuing lack of assertion, the two end up falling asleep and no romance ensues.
The next day, Jamie speaks with Darla about the night before and her fear that Chris's lack of affection means that he doesn't like her. Jamie admits that while the two are "just friends", she tried to "put herself out there" to Chris, to show Chris that she is interested in a relationship. Meanwhile, Chris goes to Clark's medical office to get advice, saying that "the timing wasn't right" and Jamie and Chris's history hinders his willingness to have sex with her. Outside the office, they happen to catch Dusty singing to a sexy nurse and then kissing her. Dusty reveals to Chris and Clark that he only plans to have sex with Jamie, as he wants to humiliate her in the same way that he felt she used to humiliate him when he was a nerd and she was the object of his crush.
Chris tries to warn Jamie, but instead ends up attacking Dusty in front of her; Jamie refuses to listen when Chris tries to explain. Chris consequently gets drunk and goes to the bar where Jamie works, finding her there with Dusty. Jamie refuses to listen and Dusty tries to convince her to have sex with him. When Jamie gently turns him down, Dusty storms out of the bar. Chris and Jamie get into another fight, with him blaming her for keeping him in the "friend zone" and saying that she "peaked in high school" and will never amount to anything. Jamie punches Chris and he is tossed out of the bar.
Upon returning to LA and having a frightening reunion with Samantha (who sneaks into Chris's house to "surprise him"), Chris realizes that Jamie is his one and only official and true love. He returns to New Jersey hoping to finally be with her. Chris declares his genuinely intense romantic love for Jamie at her house and the two share a kiss outside, in view of the neighborhood kids.
Alanis Morissette, then Reynolds's fiancée, made a cameo appearance as "herself" as a former client of his character. This came about when the casting director said "we need an Alanis Morissette type" and Reynolds said he knew someone who would fit. This scene was deleted, however, and is only available on the DVD.
The film was shot in Los Angeles and parts of Regina and Moose Jaw.
A soundtrack was released November 22, 2005 on New Line Records.Track listing
- Ben Lee – "Catch My Disease"
- Fountains of Wayne – "Hackensack"
- Rogue Wave – "Eyes"
- Samantha James – "Forgiveness"
- Brendan Benson – "Cold Hands (Warm Heart)"
- Robbers on High Street – "Big Winter"
- The Sights – "Waiting on a Friend"
- Reed Foehl – "When It Comes Around"
- The Lemonheads – "Into Your Arms"
- 'Just Friends' Holiday Players – "Christmas, Christmas"
- "Dusty 'Lee' Dinkleman" – "Jamie Smiles"
- Samantha James – "Love from Afar"
- Jeff Cardoni – "Just Friends Score Medley"
- All-4-One – "I Swear"
- Carly Simon – "Coming Around Again"
- "Forgiveness", performed multiple times by Anna Faris.
- "Jamie Smiles", performed multiple times by Chris Klein
- "Love from Afar", performed by Anna Faris and Renee Sandstrom
- "Just a Guy", performed by Anna Faris (only on the Alternate Ending)
Most songs in the film were written by Adam Schiff, except "When Jamie Smiles", which was written by H. Scott Salinas.
The orchestral score was written by Jeff Cardoni, and orchestrated by Stephen Coleman and Tony Blondal.
Just Friends grossed $32.6 million and $18.3 million in other territories for a total gross of $50.9 million.
In the United States the film grossed $9.2 million in its opening weekend, finishing 6th at the box office.
Just Friends received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 42% based on 100 reviews with an average rating of 5.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "There are moments of mirth in this overly broad comedy, but mostly, Just Friends is just not that funny." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 47 out of 100 based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale.