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Friends with Kids Review


RATING:
(3 STARS)

The premise of Jennifer Westfeldt’s Friends with Kids is irritating and feels false. A pair of successful, attractive, and personable thirtysomethings can’t find their soulmates, so they decide to have a kid together before Father Time catches up to them. These two serial daters are Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Westfeldt), and they are both best friends and the only non-parents in their Friends-esque group of Manhattanites. It’s the kind of thing that only happens in the movies, but if it doesn’t scare you off, you’ll be rewarded with a film that’s both funny and surprisingly honest. It’s what The Five-Year Engagement should have been for romantic comedies—something that’ll make you laugh and think in equal measure.

There are six principals in Jason and Julie’s group—these two and two couples. Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd) are happily married; Ben (Jon Hamm) and Missy (Kristen Wiig) are married, too, but very unhappily. Their reaction to Jason and Julie’s news is that of collective shock, which is understandable. It’s a crazy idea and one seemingly smart people like this would never try. The film works because it addresses this fearlessly. Jason and Julie argue that their baby, Joe, is well-adjusted and loved deeply by both his parents (all true). Leslie and Alex tread lightly around the subject, but bitter Ben goes after their decision viciously during a weekend away with the gang.

It’s this scene that gives Friends with Kids its bite. It elevates the film above the standard trappings of its genre (at least for a while) and gives actors like Hamm and Scott real meat to chew on. Westfeldt’s writing is crisp and confident (and, frankly, the camera loves her), and the presence of Edward Burns and Megan Fox (as Julie and Jason’s new companions, respectively) only heightens the complexity of the situation.

Comparisons to Bridesmaids will be inevitable because the film’s star so many of the same people (Wiig, Rudolph, O’Dowd, Hamm), but they really couldn’t be more different. Bridesmaids exists to make people laugh. Friends with Kids is aiming higher than that, and more often than not, it hits its mark. Yes, the ending is a little too pat, and some of Jason and Julie’s quirks are as artificial as the film’s premise, but a strong, unique tone and some quality acting makes the film an easy one to recommend.

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