Friends with Kids Review
By Bret Dorman
There’s an easy way to trick people into seeing a Rom-Com. 1) Don’t tell anyone it’s a rom-com. 2) Cast a bunch of cool/funny people in it. 3) Make it more mature by adding in kids and conversations about real life adult stuff.
Unfortunately, a rom-com is a rom-com is a rom-com. So while this movie was thoroughly enjoyable, certain parts were still moan-inducingly sappy.
The Story: Jason Fryman (Adam Scott) is a ladies man who likes big boobs and Julie Keller (Jennifer Westfeldt) is getting old, like 30 something old! Gross. They decide to shack up for one night only just to have a kid and ‘beat the system’. Their friends Lelsie and Alex (Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd) are happily/bitterly married with kids. Their friends Missy and Ben (Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm) are awesome at sex until they have kids. Also, Megan Fox’s Marilyn Monroe tattoo makes a hideous cameo and Ed Burns is a handsome man!
Okay. Here’s the set up: two best friends who are clearly meant to be together aren’t together but shack up to have a baby under the intent that they will NOT get romantically involved with each other. Sounds like a sitcom right? It is. Only instead of dragging this terrible idea out for 5 seasons which is 4 too many for a premise like this, writer/director/star Jennifer Westfeldt made it into a 100 min movie. Instead of making a show which relies on the same joke and obvious characters, we get all that in one tight little script. Do these characters make real life rational decisions? No. Are they fully thought out human beings? No. Are they entertaining to watch as they deal with babies? Yeah.
There are three couples here. The ‘will they or won’t they’ couple. The ‘we fight a lot but love each other’ couple. And the ‘we’re so good looking but having a kid screwed it all up’ couple. The latter two are just minor characters portrayed by good comedic actors. What they lack in depth they make up for in good comedic report and earnest portrayals.
I don’t watch Parks and Recreation but I do know Adam Scott is really good. He was good in Piranha 3D and its College Humor Oscar Nomination bid video. He was great in Our Idiot Brother alongside Paul Rudd. I’m not so sure he can carry a movie on his own… which is why he’s perfect as the lead in this indie ensemble. I generally don’t like the cocky ladies man “oh I’m so cool and love big boobs and am awesome at sex” type character but Scott pulls it off well. He has a natural charm, wit, and delivery that never gets old. I’d like to see him in more stuff but understand why he’d work strongly as a supporting character or cameo.
Friends With Kids is definitely a rom-com, which is annoying because rom-coms are annoying. There’s not a lot of tension of will they or won’t they because you know they will. Its not the overall trajectory of the movie that I am concerned with, but the tinier things. ‘The game’ they play of having two choices on something and HAVING to pick one seems a bit easy and pretentious but they actually do an entertaining job of thinking the answers through. There’s also Seinfeld-ish moments of conversation about society and people. The main couple discusses the pros and cons of having a baby out of wedlock or even being in a relationship. Their reasoning is sitcom savvy and many times on their way to somewhere they will work out excuses or motives to tell their friends. There’s also an ‘arriving at the ski cabin’ moment where everyone is pulling up in their cars, settling in, and saying their hellos that reminded me a bit of Woody Allen.
The end though has too many false downers leading up to a barrage of brave decisions and emotional comebacks. ‘The Game’ plays a nice role but the dialogue is very sappy and the tears are only on the actors faces. Its a shame the story has to end like this because the beginning was doing pretty well, but from a ‘test audience’ stand point I can understand how this is the most comfortable and reliable ending. Having said all that, while the last 15 minutes is a bit groan inducing, the very last lines are funny and I wish that sort of humor could have seeped through the entire third act.
In Conclusion, a rom-com can only be so good and this movie trades in normal ‘prat falls’ and ‘OMG I’m so fat I can’t fit into my high heels!’ jokes for ‘The Game’ and a more consciously aware commentary on people, not its genre. I’m glad I could enjoy a 100 minute movie about this ridiculous concept instead of suffering through promos where I ask myself… “why did they even bother?”
Final Grade: B