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Talented cast entertains in ‘Friends with Kids’

Maija Gustin | Sunday, April 1, 2012


Jon Hamm. Kristin Wiig. Maya Rudolph. Chris O’Dowd. No, this isn’t a sequel to “Bridesmaids.” And these are just the supporting players.

“Friends with Kids” will inevitably be compared to last summer’s hit female raunch-com due to its cast and similarly heartwarming and often crass take on adult relationships. While there are no major gross-out food poisoning scenes, “Friends with Kids” follows “Bridesmaids'” comedic look at adult life, though falls less for the latter’s heightened comedy.

Rather, “Friends with Kids” is all about the nitty, gritty, less-than-glamorous world of growing old(ish), getting married and having kids.

Written by Jennifer Westfeldt Jon Hamm’s longtime partner the film stars Westfeldt and Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation,” “Party Down”) as two best buddies, and the only single ones amongst their group of friends. Westfeldt has proven her knack for biting portrayals of modern adult life with her feature-writing debut “Kissing Jessica Stein,” and she turns the trials and tribulations of being young in the city into the trials and tribulations of watching friends disappear from the social scene, thanks to raising children.

In an effort to avoid the fates of their once-exciting friends whose lives have seemingly been ruined by children, Westfeldt’s Julie and Scott’s Jason decide to trick both Julie’s ticking time bomb and cruel fate by foregoing ruined relationships to just have a kid together. They reason that, as best friends, they can raise a child together, skipping over the pratfalls of a loveless relationship, while continuing to date on the side. 

While this plan makes little sense to their friends, Julie and Jason get along so well because of their shared, unique outlook on life. Miraculously, life seems perfect for the oddball family of two-at-a-time after the birth of their son. Inevitably, though, feelings are born where they once never existed, and Julie and Jason’s easy relationship becomes increasingly complicated.

“Friends with Kids” isn’t exactly unpredictable, despite its unique premise. But Westfeldt’s talent for writing along with fantastic performances from the stellar cast ¾ make the journey to get to an inevitable end interesting, tasting different from the other prototypical rom-coms on the market.

Westfeldt and Scott match wits at every turn, sometimes spouting quips at each other, at other times exchanging jabs. They are an unexpectedly great couple with a natural chemistry that comes out of the blue and easy to root for, even if against your best judgment.

Fans who head to see “Friends with Kids” looking for laughs from Hamm, Wiig, Rudolph and O’Dowd won’t be disappointed. While these four only turn in supporting roles as Julie and Jason’s married friends, they make every scene memorable, even if short. Hamm and Wiig have a relationship as dysfunctional as theirs in “Bridesmaids,” while Rudolph and O’Dowd are undeniably charming as beleaguered parents-of-two.

Megan Fox and Ed Burns also show up as Jason and Julie’s respective flames, but neither can hold a tea to the humor or charm of “Friends with Kids'” main six.

At its best, “Friends with Kids” attempts to capture the highs and lows of real adult relationships, despite a somewhat-outlandish plot. While not always perfect, there is an honesty to the way the relationships are depicted that seems in stark contrast to what one usually finds in contemporary comedies. There are, though, moments when the film seems to drag, either veering too far from the inevitable, or drawing it out too much. 

The conclusion is both predictable and welcome, luckily avoiding cliché for something that seems much more truthful. 

While “Friends with Kids” is outlandish at times, more often than not, Westfeldt’s sharp writing nails the complexities of adulthood on the head. The talented cast will have you laughing at one minute, cringing at the next, but always feeling wholly invested. Most of all, through all the laughter, you’ll likely end up taking a bit of time to think about just what it means to be all grown up and in love in the real world.

Contact Maija Gustin at mgustin@nd.edu