“Friends with Kids” takes a cursory look at how six relatively intelligent BFFs struggle to find the pH balance between romantic and parental love.
Kids! They can be the best part of marriage, or they can be the worst. It all depends on who’s more childish: the parents or the offspring. We get a representative mix of both in the indie dramedy “Friends with Kids,” which, true to its title, takes a cursory look at how six relatively intelligent BFFs struggle to find the pH balance between romantic and parental love.
As she did with her first script, the gender-bending “Kissing Jessica Stein,” Jennifer Westfeldt goes for something radical – in this case, best friends deciding to create a baby they’ll share like a Zipcar (he has him one day, she has him the next) – and winds up pulling her punches just when things start getting interesting. Didn’t her mother tell her it’s impolite to tease? Apparently not, because once Westfeldt gets us all in a lather about the effect unconventional families have on youngsters, she lets us down with a cop-out ending that simply doesn’t ring true.
It’s frustrating, to be sure. And it might have been a deal-breaker if the foreplay wasn’t so stimulating. Our aphrodisiac is a cast loaded with such “Bridesmaids” alums as Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd and Westfeldt’s real-life partner, Jon Hamm. But the guy who really gets you in the mood is Adam Scott. Yes, Adam Scott! I know! I thought the middling star of “Parks and Recreation” was a hack, too, until seeing him tap into nuances I never thought he possessed in amiably fleshing out a feckless lothario like Jason Fryman.
Of all the film’s stars, which also include Ed Burns, Megan Fox and Westfeldt herself, Scott is the one who winds up sticking to you like glue. He’s simply terrific, especially in his scenes opposite Westfeldt, who plays his platonic friend and neighbor Julie Keller. Westfeldt, who also makes her directing debut here, may as well have called her character Helen Keller, given how emotionally blind she is to the people and situations in her not-so-fabulously single life. Her Julie, frankly, is an idiot, but a lovable one, especially with that radiant smile and impossibly high cheekbones easing your resistance.
Still, there are times when you just want to shake her by the pretty, blond shoulders – like when she agrees to go along with Jason’s proposal to conceive a baby they will raise together while they continue to date other people. It’s crazy, they agree, but it can’t be any worse than what child-rearing has done to their best couples friends, Ben and Missy (Hamm and Wiig), and Alex and Leslie (O’Dowd and Rudolph), who have seen all the romance and civility drained from their marriages.
After a slow start, Westfeldt convinces you her script is really onto something intelligent and true in her observations about children being as much a curse as a blessing. And as the intrigue builds, you’re almost convinced that the Zipcar method is the way to go. But then, out of some apparent moral obligation, she reverses paths. And as she does, “Friends” begins to resemble a sitcom more than a movie.
Page 2 of 2 - She also fails to take full advantage of her four chief co-stars, who, instead of serving as a contrast to Jason and Julie’s New Age parenting, are relegated to Greek chorus status, smugly commenting on how their single pals are stupid to believe their commitment-free arrangement will succeed. You’d also like to see more of Burns and Fox as Julie and Jason’s respective romantic interests, and explore how they feel about their lovers sharing a child, not to mention a great deal of emotional intimacy. That lack of depth ultimately ends up robbing “Friends” of much of its power, as it gallingly takes the easy way out.
FRIENDS WITH KIDS (R for sexual content and language.) Cast includes Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd. Written and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt. 2.5 stars out of 4