Yet another romantic New York comedy, Friends with Kids is rooted in the New York films of Woody Allen, and the Manhattan-set television sitcoms that followed ( Seinfeld, Friends).
What that means is a lot of wish-fulfilment scenes set in restaurants and expensive apartments, with walks in Central Park, where quip-happy adorable neurotics look for love.
Writer-director-star Jennifer Westfeldt (co-writer of Kissing Jessica Stein) adds the twist of a platonic couple deciding to raise a child together before recognizing, naturally, between diaper changes and baby spit-up, that they don’t feel so platonic any more. It’s strictly formulaic, although with a cast that includes four members of the hit Bridesmaids (Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Jon Hamm and Chris O’Dowd), it’s a case of high-profile talent playing in a small familiar sandbox.
We first meet Julie, a single woman in her late 30s (writer-director-producer and star Westfeldt) in the wee hours of the morning when she’s on the phone with her best friend, Jason (Adam Scott), who lives in her apartment building. They have one of those When Harry Met Sally things going on.
While they talk, they’re each lying next to their latest sleeping partners. He’s a wise-cracking ad exec with a compulsive interest in one-night stands with big-breasted women. She’s a kind woman pushing 40 with an ill-defined job helping an old philanthropist spend his money. You know: New York jobs.
Their social circle includes the imperious Leslie (Rudolph) and her subversive slacker husband Alex (Chris O’Dowd), who are the first to decide to have a baby. Ben and Missy (Hamm and Wiig) are next to conceive, instantly transforming from infatuated lovebirds to angry parents who can’t stand being in the same room (Hamm, who is Westfeldt’s real-life spouse, provides some dramatic ballast; Wiig is wasted).
Though Jason and Julie hate what baby-making does to their pals, they decide to have one together, commuting up and down the elevator to share custody. Soon Joe arrives and, to their friends’ increasing annoyance, the J&J management team seems much better at maintaining work schedules and an affectionate relationship than the married couples do.
Along the way to happily-ever-after, Jason and Julie each have their stopgap romances: Julie lands newly divorced sensitive hunk Kurt (Ed Burns) and Jason finds his own fantasy babe (Megan Fox as a hair-tossing, glossy-lipped show dancer).
While this TV-proven cast makes for innocuously affable company, there’s no sense of urgency here. Instead of edge, we get a dusting of R-rated material with jokes about stretched vaginas and enough on-screen boozing to rival Leaving Los Vegas. Adam Scott’s an intelligent, fun actor to watch – you can hear the mental wheels turning – but his transformation from lout to sensitive life partner is unconvincing.
A bigger weakness here is Westfeldt’s Julie, who comes across as just too simpering and sweet. The script begs for a scene where she tells Jason he’s full of it, instead of waiting patiently for him to find her sheer niceness unexpectedly hot.
Whom is this movie for, really? It’s too tame for the whooping crowds of women who made hits of the Sex and the City movies and Bridesmaids. And for sure it isn’t for parents with kids. You can probably find them, diaper bags in the aisles and toddlers on their laps, watching Dr. Seuss: The Lorax.
Friends with Kids
- Written and directed by Jennifer Westfeldt
- Starring Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Jon Hamm
- Classification: 14A
- 2 stars