Friends with Kids (Review)

FRIENDS WITH KIDS
(3/08/12; Comedy)
Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox, Edward Burns
SCR/DIR: Jennifer Westfeldt
MPAA: R for sexual content and language.
1 hour 46 mins

Two best friends (Scott and Westfeldt) decide to have a child together while keeping their relationship platonic, so they can avoid the toll kids can take on romantic relationships. Anybody want to guess how this is going to turn out? The good news is that even though Friends with Kids is saddled with an obligatory ending, the journey is anything but rote.

Credit goes to Westfeldt, a smart writer (Kissing Jessica Stein) making her directorial debut. A trio of New York couples is living the life: Rudolph and O’Dowd are the stable ones eager to start a family, Hamm and Wiig are so hot for each other, they sneak off to have sex whenever possible. But four years later, everyone is miserable amidst a never-ending concussion of screaming, needy toddlers and a lost sense of self.

Once Scott and Westfeldt decide to have a baby, they do it the old-fashioned way, which doesn’t immediately complicate things. Basing their plan on how their friends have failed causes resentment when it appears they have finally cracked the code on how to avoid the pitfalls of parenthood. Oh, but it’s only a matter of time before one of them – or both of them – reconsider and start to have feelings beyond friendship.

Westfeldt cannot be faulted for adhering to a certain amount of formula – let’s face it: without it, her film probably would not exist. But as Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow have done, Westfeldt peppers the dialogue and story shifts with enough authenticity to make it ache when it needs to. A dinner scene in a cabin is particularly unpleasant, but cathartic at the same time.

Megan Fox and Edward Burns show up as new love interests, and compliment the ensemble nicely. If nothing else, Fox acquits herself well as a good sport. Westfeldt’s golden-hued film has the classy crispness one would expect from a post-Harry and Sally comedy, and while the writing is honest, the performances from Scott and the director are a little too energetic and bog the film down.

Many have pointed out that Friends acts as an impromptu Bridesmaids reunion, with Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd and Jon Hamm sharing the frame once again. They are such consummate performers that one would be hard pressed to tell it was the same gang.

If the director had seen fit to cast herself in one of the smaller parts and elevate either Wiig or Rudolph to the fore, not only might the film and its observations been weightier, but it might have had stronger box office appeal. (Lionsgate)

— DENNIS WILLIS

Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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