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Having 'Friends' Helps Schwimmer Shift Onto the Big Screen

In "The Pallbearer," a nice but nerdy unemployed architect (David Schwimmer) tries to win his high school dream girl (Gwyneth Paltrow) but is tempted by an older woman (Barbara Hershey) who mistakes him for the best friend of her recently deceased son. (Rated PG-13.)


Despite its resemblance to "The Graduate," a '60s movie in which a struggling college graduate falls for a girl but is seduced by her mother, most kids said "The Pallbearer" reminded them of the television show "Friends," in which David Schwimmer plays Ross, one of a group of struggling, postgraduate buddies.

The movie "was, like, 'Hi, I'm Ross, but I'm in a movie,' " said Andrea Wallace, 18, of Coto de Caza.

In "Friends," Schwimmer plays a shy paleontologist who eventually wins his high school dream girl, Rachel.

In the "Pallbearer," he plays Tom Thompson, a shy architect who lives with his mother in Brooklyn and pines for his high school dream girl, Julie.

"When I looked at him, I was, like, 'That's Ross,' not Tom whatever his name was," Andrea said.

In any case, for Schwimmer fans, it was chance to swoon big time.

Heather Hawley, 18, admitted that the actor's equine features and puppy dog eyes set him apart some from the usual screen idol, but added, "It's his personality that shines through and makes him good looking.

"He's Mr. Nice Guy, the mensch. . . . He's heartfelt and compassionate and sympathetic. It makes him really cute to me," Heather continued, adding that she never misses an episode of "Friends" and has seen all the reruns.

Heather and Andrea came to the movie with a large group of friends, all seniors at Santa Margarita High School, who agreed unanimously that the romantic comedy is delightful. It helped, they said, that the rest of the audience guffawed throughout, mostly at sitcom type gags involving romantic miscues and misunderstandings. Julie can't remember Tom from high school, and Tom can't remember Bill Abernathy, even though he agrees to be his pallbearer and to deliver the eulogy.

"I loved it," said Jenn Goldsman, 18, of Mission Viejo, adding that she appreciated that all the characters, including Schwimmer's and Paltrow's, were more down-to-earth than glamorous. "People were definitely your ordinary people, not superficial. He was in love with her, and she was pretty, but you don't think, 'Oh, whoa! She's drop-dead gorgeous.' "

The girls were put off by Tom's affair of convenience with Ruth, Bill's bleached and wrinkling mother. They said it was too "gross" and annoying. "I didn't want him being with her to ruin his relationship with the girl," said Tara Childers, 18, of Rancho Santa Margarita.

Not too far from the real world themselves, the girls said they related to the twentysomethings' frustrations, trying to find direction and work but still having to live at home with overly nurturing parents.

They also agreed Schwimmer made a successful debut on the silver screen, but they would like to see him explore a different character next time.

"I felt it was just a longer 'Friends' show," said Amy Chermack, 18, of Coto de Caza. "In order for him to keep going, I think he needs to change a little bit. It would be boring to watch him after a while, even though I love his character."

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