Just Like Heaven PG-13, 101 minutes
This romantic not-quite-a-ghost story has enough warmth and humor to entertain and occasionally move as-yet uncynical teenage girls and their moms, aunts or grandmothers. Yet "Just Like Heaven" could have been so much better. Its first-rate stars (Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo) and up-and-coming director (Mark Waters) are not well served by the treacly script, adapted from a French novel ("If Only It Were True"). The film opens with considerable wit and promise but soon begins over-sugaring the story's already sentimental themes. The issue of whether to turn off life support for long-term comatose patients figures prominently yet is discussed with cringe-inducing cliches. A mild PG-13 by today's coarsening standards, "Just Like Heaven" shows a couple of non-graphic medical procedures. An elderly man in a hospital gown appears bare-bottomed, and a seductive neighbor drops her towel, though her nudity is only implied. The film contains gentle verbal sexual innuendo, an implied overnight tryst, a crude hand gesture and no profanity. One character drinks a lot.
Witherspoon plays Elizabeth, a workaholic medical resident with no personal life. Driving to her sister's (Dina Waters) after a 26-hour shift, she has a terrible car accident. (We see a truck heading toward her but not the crash.) The next thing you know, a handsome, sad-eyed fellow named David (Ruffalo) is subletting Elizabeth's San Francisco apartment. She starts "appearing" to him, but she can't remember who she is -- or was. After the initial shock, David helps her find her identity, and a greater attachment grows. Jon Heder ("Napoleon Dynamite") supplies amusement as a geeky bookstore clerk who is into the paranormal. Too bad the movie doesn't exude the oddball edge he brings to his scenes.