Arts movie review

Have kids, not a relationship

Cheap laughs and poor chemistry detract from a potentially good film


Friends with Kids

Directed by Jennifer Westfeldt

Starring Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott and Maya Rudolph

Rated R

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With a mini-reunion of the cast of Bridesmaids, Friends with Kids had some high standards to live up to. Friends with Kids did succeed in telling the same old love story in a new way, but it did not compare in the comedy department. Still, the movie offers a cute and unique story, and the low budget makes the end result all the more charming.

The storyline revolves around longtime friends Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott) and their shrinking pool of friends when their friends start having children. After observing the toll that children take on the romance of a relationship, Julie and Jason come up with their brilliant plan of having a child together without marriage and the messiness that comes with it. Their plan pans out smoothly — and they even find their perfect counterparts — until they fall for each other, of course.

Unfortunately, the chemistry between the two main characters is forced. Westfeldt, who wrote, produced, and directed the movie, insisted on her co-star repeatedly calling her “doll” — acceptable, perhaps, had the film been made a few decades ago. The movie would have benefitted from having the two stars substituted with comedians who are more comedic than romantic in the romantic comedy realm.

Every other character, however, is perfectly cast. Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd make for the perfect dysfunctional and quirky couple, Jon Hamm plays a bitter and menacing husband, and Kristen Wiig is surprisingly dramatic enough to play Hamm’s disgruntled wife. And Megan Fox’s role as Jason’s love interest seemed to have been written for her. In one scene, the baby has a bad case of diarrhea and Jason is trying his best to keep the poo contained, when Mary Jane (Fox) walks in to see excrement splattered everywhere around the room and on Jason. Her horrified expression was priceless. Another memorable poo situation was Julie opening an email with a picture of one of her friend’s kid’s successful first number two in the toilet.

Indeed, the movie seems to fixate on cheap laughs. Julie and Jason’s interactions are filled with a slew of inappropriate lines that are too awkward to be funny, and too lewd to publish in print. And keeping with Westfeldt’s fascination with walking the inappropriate line was Hamm’s character joking about Wiig’s character that “she looks like I raped her to have a kid.” Although comedy generally does have to approach that line, this movie favored the wrong side. Nevertheless, it had a good soundtrack to accompany the parts that weren’t uncomfortable as well as several abrupt but well-placed transitions for comedic effect.

For a low-budget, independent film, Friends with Kids does a commendable job. Despite the almost offensive scenes that made the movie uncomfortable at times and the weak chemistry between the two main actors, it was refreshing to see a romantic comedy with a novel storyline and such developed characters — even though the plot is predictable.