Just Like Heaven

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Yet another one of those films where you can just imagine the studio execs hammering out the pitch, which can’t have been anything other than, “Ghost, but with the genders reversed – and it’s a comedy!”

Yep, whereas 1990’s Ghost featured the living Demi Moore doing the whole love thing with the ghost of Patrick Swayze, helped out by a female medium, here we get the living Mark Ruffalo falling in love with the ghost of Reece Witherspoon, helped out by a male psychiatrist. And on top of that, they’ve chucked in the When Harry Met Sally idea (in itself pinched from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing) that on first meeting, they hate each other.

It’s hardly the most original of ideas, but then originality is never the issue with these kinds of films. What matters is the chemistry of the two leads, and the believability of them as a couple. Of course, believability always takes a bit of a knocking when one of the main characters is dead, but still.

Ruffalo’s depressed architect gradually comes to terms with having the ghost of his previous tenant in his flat – no doubt helped considerably by the spectre looking like Reece Witherspoon rather than a chain-dragging ghoul – and the ghost in turn begins to accept that he’s living there whether she likes it or not. Together they decide to try and find out why she has not moved on to a better place, and soon enough the spark of romance is surely only a quick strike of the flint away. Quite how they would ever be able to consummate any relationship remains somewhat unclear, as the poor ghost is unable to touch things, but still.

In any case, trivial matters like practicality and rationality are hardly the point in these kinds of films. They’re all about hope for hopeless romantics, and the idea that love can be found even after you die – or, as the filmmakers no doubt intended the message to be, in the most unexpected places – is exactly the kind of thing calculated to appeal to the target audience of lonely/soppy women in their late twenties to mid-thirties. A tad patronising, perhaps – but that’s Hollywood for you.

People who prefer their supernatural movies to feature zombies and chainsaws are likely to be disappointed, but on its own terms this is by no means a terrible romantic comedy, and makes the likes of the dire Maid in Manhattan, The Wedding Planner or any number of other Jennifer Lopez vehicles pale even more in comparison. While certainly not a work of genius, if you enjoy this kind of movie there are more than enough jokes and entertaining set-ups to ensure you don’t regret giving it a try.