Friends With Kids Review: Less Sweet Than Sour Reproductive Romance
A romantic comedy that in many ways is also not, Friends With Kids somehow subverts its own genre with more sour than sweet manifestations on its mind. And even if importing a collection of lunatic lovebirds over from last year's Bridesmaids - including John Hamm, Chris O'Dowd, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig - this sulking reproductive romp should in no manner, shape or form be considered a sequel.
Jennifer Wesfeldt has unfathomably cast herself in the lead role as Julie, a thirtysomething Manhattan single whose adulthood has been characterized by a succession of years of bad dates, though mitigated with lots of enduring friendships. But when those friends begin wandering off into preoccupied parenthood, a rather gloomy hole is left in Julie's life. Which she decides to fill with her own notion of motherhood. That is, having a joint custody shared baby with her longtime, similarly single platonic best friend Jason (Adam Scott).
Which, philosophically speaking, should ideally bypass all the common pitfalls of marriage and raising children. Like emotional complications, domestic stress, full time diaper duty (happily reduced to half time infant poop scooping), and all of the above leading to potential divorce. Now, you don't have to be a marriage counselor to detect where this nontraditional nesting scenario is headed, and it's encapsulated in two mere words: family values.
Meanwhile, in the midst of this precooked plot, an unscheduled love interest for each of the premeditated mom and dad parenting partners arrives on the scene in the only spontaneous, welcome surprise in this movie. Namely Edward Burns and Megan Fox, respectively. And incidentally, two far more charismatic co-stars who likely could have gone a long way doing damage control, as the enticing main course in this thinly conceived concoction.
Westfeldt, who first grabbed attention displaying vivacious screenwriting chops with Kissing Jessica Stein in 2001, has made the bold move in Friends With Kids to expand and diversify into combo directing and starring as well. And with the latter choice in particular, ill-advised to say the least. Sorry Jen, as much as your creative skills off camera shine, romantic lead you are not. Projecting instead of genuine tragicomic sensibility, a moping funk and irritating, whispery monotone whine throughout.
But the biggest blunder in Friends With Kids, is the mismatch casting of Scott and Westfeldt. Who initially indeed elicit zero sparks in the erotic chemistry department, lending an all natural authenticity to their mutual lack of attraction. So when feelings subsequently do get aroused - and trust me, this comes as no great reveal - the sexual switchup is as artificially induced as the pretend parenthood premise in the first place.
And I haven't even gotten around to those climactic intended sweet nothings blurted rather than whispered into weepy Westfeldt's blissfully receptive ears, that inevitably win her heart: 'I want to f*ck the sh*t out of you.' Case closed.
1 1/2 stars
Prairie Miller is a NY multimedia journalist online, in print and on radio, and on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network's Arts Express. Read more reviews by Prairie Miller. Contact Prairie through NewsBlaze. Read more stories by Prairie Miller.
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