FRIENDS WITH KIDS Review

When I first heard about "Friends with Kids" I thought it was some type of early title for the film that later became "Bridesmaids". The majority of the casts are the same here with the exception of leads in "Friends with Kids" are Adam Scott and writer director Jennifer Westfeldt. Though these movies share a similar sense of theme and tone this is nowhere near the all out comedy that the superior "Bridesmaids" was and this adheres closer to the rom-com standards that "Bridesmaids" refused to follow. While it is unfair to judge this film in comparison with another simply because they share many of the same actors it is also inevitable and with such an indie vibe and presence to the film there will certainly be the expectations for this to be more original than it turns out to be. While I have never seen Ms. Westfeldt's previous writing effort, 2001's "Kissing Jessica Stein" but while she did write the film under revision here it is also her directorial debut. For having to manage so many roles including the lead character, she does in fact navigate the story and characters well. "Friends with Kids" separates itself from the standard romantic comedy by being genuinely witty and in touch with the topic that it is exploring. Not only is the dialogue refreshingly honest but it also gets right to the heart of the issues each character is dealing with and presents a new take on the state of change our lives take when we decide to make as major a decision as bringing another life into the world. This is obviously a complication very close to Westfeldt's heart as you can feel the process of her mind working through the different perspectives with her dialogue. Unfortunately she has to resolve it somehow and most of the time these thoughts aren't wrapped up as neatly as a Hollywood script would have you believe.

Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) are unsure
if being best friends will make them good parents.
The story follows a group of friends who when we are first introduced to them are pre-kids and enjoy their New York lifestyle. Julie (Westfeldt) who is approaching her forties with no luck in the long term relationship department and the yearning to be at a stage in life where all of her friends are suddenly finding themselves becomes suddenly the all important ingrediant in life. Seeing their friends go from love making socialites to the unrecognizeable, tired people who are trying their best to make it through the day without killing one another sparks the idea that maybe she doesn't need marriage to have a baby or to be happy. Lucky for her she has a best friend in Jason (Adam Scott) and they seem perfect for each other from the beginning if it weren't for that lack of sexual attraction between the two. Jason and Julie are very up front with one another and so there are no qualms when it comes to feeling comfortable with having the other person to raise a child with, but while the set up of having a child with your friend with out all the complications and obligations of marriage initially sounds like a great idea, our characters of course do not think this through and indeed prove conventions correct. There to comment on the situation and display every reason possible to support Jason and Julie's experimet are their four best friends Ben (Westfeldt's real life love Jon Hamm) and Missy (Kristin Wiig), Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (the wonderful Chris O'Dowd). Ben and Missy used to frolic everywhere they had a chance and were completely in love until the raising of children came between them and result in a sad truth of todays society. Leslie and Alex are the first who branch out and have kids but while they clearly love the idea of it, they were completely unprepared for the changes their life would take.

From left: Alex (Chris O'Dowd), Missy (Kristin Wiig), Leslie
(Maya Rudolph), and Ben (Jon Hamm) make their way to
Jason and Julies apartment to see how parenthood is
suiting them.
While "Friends with Kids" certainly has its moments, it takes what feels like forever to get where it's going and when it does it is what we saw coming a mile away. It throws a through curves in there in the form of Ed Burns and Megan Fox as two love interests for both Jason and Julie which naturally brings the realization to both that they could never actually live out their lives without being as close to one another as they are when both are simply dating casually or deciding to bring a life into the world. Usually, I hate when movies will try to spring an un-conventional way or at least shine a new light on ways of thinking just to recoil and decide not to be bold enough to follow through on that statement. It is different with this film though as even from the first reading of what the premise was you could tell what a bad idea it was going to be and how awful it would probably turn out if the situation panned out as our leads originally planned. Bringing a child into the world means taking o the responsibility of raising it and to Jason and Julie this always seemed more like something cool to do, a natural next step in life that they'd like to test out, but are never fully committed to or willing to put what it takes into it. Julie seems to realize this first and thus the fact her and Jasons original plan isn't going to work. Scott plays Jason as kind of a pig though preventing him from realizing how selfish and ignorant he is being when the reality of the situation attempts to slap him in the face over and over. While Scott and Westfeldt give nice performances and meet the demands of the oddly sit-com like feel this whole thing has I would have much rather seen a movie based around O'dowd and Rudolphs characters, I guess I will have to wait for Judd Apatow's "This is Forty" later this year to see that film though.

Jason realizes at just the right moment that his new girlfreind
Mary Jane (Megan Fox) is not the one for him.
"Friends with Kids" is by no means a bad film, it just, like Jason and Julies relationship, has some complications. The tone feels low key and a bit amateur while the pacing is off and the story drags from time to time as if trying to simply fill out a decent running time only to feel it is running out of time once it reached the conclusion. A few revisions to the script or at least a few more edits could have certainly helped this, but the importat point is the idea with which Westfeldt was attempting to get across and for the most part, I think she accomplished that. Her characters are fleshed out and their personalities are strong. The dialogue, as noted earlier, is quick witted and snappy, nothing like an actual conversation but a world where people can perfectly articulate their thoughts the first time out. It is a perfectly acceptable romantic comedy with a hint of vulgarity that doesn't go overboard, but it displays a script that tries so hard at first to go against the grain while following the blueprint of every other film of its genre. It was also nice of her beau and all her funny friends to show up and lend their names to her small film, but they end up leaving us wanting more from them while this is in all actuality a breakthrough in Adam Scott's career that solidifies he can hold down a leading role in a film. Hamm has some nice moments and O'Dowd continues to prove his worth while Fox also is more bearable here than ever before. There is plenty here to like, and if you are renting something a few months down the road on a night in this would do perfectly, but don't get a babysitter to watch the kids just to see a movie about what your life used to be.