Just once I’d like to see a movie in which a man and a woman can be platonic friends without having to hook up at the end. The wearying Friends With Kids, from Kissing Jessica Stein writer Jennifer Westfeldt, tries awfully hard at every turn to trumpet its own bold irreverence, while settling for such boring plot mechanics and conventional Hollywood morality it might as well star Katherine Heigl.
OK, maybe it’s not that bad. But Friends With Kids starts out with such promise, it’s hard not to be resentful. We begin with a gang of six upscale attractive Manhattan-ites dining out at a trendy bistro. Smash cut to four years later, when weeknights out on the town have been replaced by rare and frustrating evenings spent inside remote Brooklyn family homes. There’s a cacophony of crying children and these once sharply-dressed happy couples now spend their time in sweatpants, screaming at one another. But Adam Scott’s randy womanizer and Westfeldt’s lovelorn stereotype remain unattached, still living in the big city but wondering aloud what happened to their friends, and feeling inadequate about bumping up against their mid-30s without ever having settled down.
There’s a great movie to be made about this jarring juxtaposition: exploring the toll that having a family takes on friendships, with a consideration of how people inevitably drift apart after choosing different life paths. Friends With Kids so dearly wants to be that movie, but Westfeldt has shackled herself to such a lame high-concept gimmick that there’s barely room to breathe.
If you can believe this one, best friends Scott and Westfeldt decide to have a child together for reasons that only make sense according to a screenwriter’s manual. The two circle their way around a great deal of tortured logic, before eventually arriving at the absurd conclusion that they will remain friends and split custody with no complications.
Aside from a sight gag about explosive diarrhea, the child doesn’t really seem to play much of a part in their lives. (I can’t even remember the kid’s name and I saw the movie a couple days ago.) Mostly it’s a movie about Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt taking a torturously long time to finally figure out that they belong together.
One contrivance after another keeps them from just getting it on already, and it doesn’t help that they’re both the most inexperienced, least interesting actors in the cast. Scott has proved himself a brilliant comedian on Parks And Recreation, but his monotone deadpan here just flattens out into monotony. I got tired of listening to him. Westfeldt seems to be in the lead simply because she wrote and directed the movie. Maybe Katherine Heigl should’ve starred.
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