For a certain cadre of filmgoers, this is all they need to know about "Just Like Heaven": It features three shots of Mark Ruffalo getting out of the shower.
Ruffalo, who burst on the scene in the 2000 movie "You Can Count on Me," has developed an interesting career since, garnering a growing and dedicated fan base in such smart movies as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Collateral," while carving out an unexpected but winning sideline as a romantic leading man. In "13 Going on 30" and now "Just Like Heaven," he lends a scruffy, thoroughly disarming charm to roles that usually call for the acting equivalent of Bachelor Number Two.
Here that role is to be a credible love interest for the far higher-wattage Reese Witherspoon (just look at how they're portrayed on the movie's poster), and the chemistry works, largely because his understated sweetness plays so nicely against her preternaturally chirpy persona. When David Abbott (Ruffalo) moves into a fantastic San Francisco apartment and is immediately told to move out by its former tenant -- Elizabeth Martinson (Witherspoon), who three months earlier was hit head-on by a truck -- their banter crackles with tart, unforced verve.
But all too soon, the whimsical interspiritual romance undergoes a fatal shift in tone, raising troubling end-of-life issues that seem more at home in the pronouncements of Tom DeLay than a Saturday night date movie. "Just Like Heaven" turns into kind of a bummer of a bait-and-switch, wrapping weirdly maudlin speculation inside the candy coating of a frothy, appealing romance.
But it does feature three shots of Mark Ruffalo getting out of the shower.
-- Ann Hornaday