FRIENDS WITH KIDS – The Review
Can a single guy and a single gal be best friends without romance ( and perhaps sex ) messing things up? This question was probably best explored many years ago with WHEN HARRY MET SALLY ( and countless uninspired rom-coms since the 1989 classic ). The new film FRIENDS WITH KIDS puts the conflict right up front. Yeah, these two are BFFs and yeah, they procreate. Now, Harry and Sally did hook-up, but it was not part of a well thought-out, negotiated plan. These modern New Yorkers want parenthood without romantic committment. Can they really pull it off, or will they go down the path from 23 years ago?
Well, let’s meet these friends prior to the kids. Julie ( Jennifer Westfeldt ) is a gorgeous thirty-something who’s hesitant about jumping back into the old dating pool after a bad break-up with an old beau. Jason ( Adam Scott ) is having a great time splashing about in the deep end of said pool. He’s not exactly a ” player ” , but his relationships don’t last from weeks into months. The two live on different floors of a swanky Manhattan apartment building and are friends with two married couples. Leslie ( Maya Rudolph ) and Alex ( Chris O’Dowd ) are squabbling ( well, more like teasing ) long-time married, harried parents. Missy ( Kristen Wiig ) and Ben ( Jon Hamm ) are newly marrieds who have a tough time keeping their hands off each other ( lotsa’ risky public action! ). After a group dinner, Julie and Jason hatch a plan. They both want to experience parenthood while still young, but don’t want to commit to a life partner. They’ll make a baby, and commit to taking care of the tot, trading off duties and time. But once the child is past infancy ( and Julie’s back in club-shape ), they’ll both start dating again. The other couples are perplexed by the plan ( some more than others ), but offer their support. Soon Julie hooks up with a hunky single dad ( Ed Burns ) while Jason finds his dream gal in a shapely Broadway star ( Megan Fox ). Things seem to be going great for both new parents, but can these buddies really keep their parenting separate from their new relationships?
For most of its running time FRIENDS WITH KIDS is a smart, witty Big Apple relationship romp that’s more Nora Ephron than Woody Allen. The main problem is that it’s being marketed almost as a BRIDESMAIDS reunion with Wiig, Rudolph, Hamm, and O’Dowd featured predominately in the ads. Sure there are a couple of baby excrement gags ( a tired staple of baby rom-coms now ), but that’s as close as this film comes to the raunch of last Summer’s smash flick. And there are only three or four scenes involving all the couples. The majority of screen time is devoted to Westfeldt and Scott. Both are talented actors ( with Westfeldt pulling triple duty as screenwriter/director/star ), but they have little chemistry together ( as opposed to Scott’s TV job on ” Parks and Recreations ” where he sizzles with Amy Poehler ). It’s tough to accept Stone as this great ladies’ man, while Westfeldt’s character comes of a tad whiny in many scenes. As for those other two couples, Hamm is given little to do until a big confrontation in which he channels a bit of the Don Draper arrogance and insensitivity. Wiig is given even less to do besides drink and glare at Hamm. Her wild, zany comic persona is in small supply. The more interesting couple may be Rudolph and O’Dowd. They have an easy rapport and great comic timing. His character is six years her junior and often is in the child role ( like a goofy adolescent ) with her in their scenes. Rudolph’s a great big sister to Westfeldt- supportive with a great B.S. detector. Fox tries to shake her big movie diva ( rhymes with witch ) persona and gain some indie film cred, but comes off as her usual stiff screen self especially in her scenes with the ensemble. You just can’t buy her and Scott together. Speaking of indie film cred, Burns has that in spades, but his dream guy dad just seem to be a good-natured doormat. He’s there mostly to be supportive of Julie. The NYC location work is great, as is a jaunt to the slopes. Unfortunately all the sparkling dialogue comes crashing to a halt after a big holiday gone bad and the film marches into rom-com cliche-land. The ending is almost cringe-worthy. Ms. Westfeldt is a talented film maker. Let’s hope her next effort can avoid some of these pitfalls. She and her fellow actors are deserving of a better, less predictable screen story from start to finish.
Overall rating: 3 Out of 5 stars