Genre: Undead romantic comedy.
The pitch: The intangible specter of workaholic doctor Elizabeth Martinson (Reese Witherspoon) haunts depressed, slobby David Abbott (Mark Ruffalo), who sublets her San Francisco pad. Imagine a supernatural Goodbye Girl -- but can the bickering couple fall in love if she literally falls through his arms?
Money shots: David summons Elizabeth's spirit by threatening to put a cup on a mahogany table -- without a coaster! Elizabeth talks a terrified David through an emergency surgical procedure. Sun-drenched gardens provide lovely backdrops for requisite chick-flick sweet talk.
Best line: As a slacker-psychic/bookstore owner, Jon Heder scoffs, "UFOlogy -- it isn't even a real science!" Heder played the title role of Napoleon Dynamite and seems to be the only actor given actual punch lines, not just light banter.
Inside joke: Elizabeth snarkily compares a group of Asian would-be exorcists to The Joy Luck Club. Rosalind Chao, who plays her mentor, was one of The Joy Luck Club's leads.
Product placement: David drinks heavily while grieving over a mysterious problem, turning the film's first third into a de facto ad for Miller Beer and the occasional Heineken.
Hit single: Mean Girls director Mark Waters puts some snappy alterna-pop on the soundtrack, including the Cure's "Just Like Heaven" and Katie Melua's cover version. But we also suffer through obvious, annoying covers like Kay Hanley watering down Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" and Bowling for Soup doing the Ghostbusters theme.
The bottom line: Some All of Me-style physical comedy when Elizabeth takes over David's body proves that Ruffalo is no Steve Martin. But as romantic leads go, Martin is no Ruffalo, either. The You Can Count On Me actor makes an appealing match with always likable Witherspoon. The huggable stars and unusual plot twist deserve more than the thin script and flat jokes: The angels mostly frown on Just Like Heaven. Opens Sept. 16. 2 Stars
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