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Friends With Kids

by on July 17, 2012
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Jennifer Westfeldt has good ideas. 2001’s “Kissing Jessica Stein” — which Westfeldt wrote and starred in — explored what might happen if two straight-identified women decided to date each other. Her new writing and directing effort, “Friends With Kids,” turns to parenthood: Would it work if two platonic pals procreated and co-parented while seeing other people? As with “Stein,” the idea is interesting but the movie is muddled.

Westfeldt and Adam Scott play Julie and Jason, best buddies in their late 30s who notice their friends’ marriages crumbling when babies are added into the mix. Still, Jason wants a child of his own and Julie worries she is running out of time for a family. Their solution? Have the minimal amount of sex (after all, they’re not attracted to each other) and raise the offspring as a team but with an eye toward finding their true life partners. You can probably guess the rest.

Predictable plots aren’t necessarily bad: There’s comfort to be found in a story with a set ending. It’s why romantic comedies and horror films are so popular. And there’s innovation to be found in the most mundane of stories. If only this happened in “Friends With Kids.” Westfeldt has a wonderful start — two smart, stable people who care for one another and share core values seek to form a family on their own terms. She also has an ear for fun dialogue and an all-access pass to the cast of “Bridesmaids” (Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Kristen Wiig and Westfeldt’s real-life partner, Jon Hamm, play Julie and Jason’s friends).

However, Westfeldt’s issues lie in the execution. What should be real discussions of important issues come off as privileged whining. Idiocy is almost never addressed: Wouldn’t Jason and Julie have talked about relationship boundaries and established ground rules, especially when it was always understood they’d be dating other people? When Hamm’s character finally calls the couple on their lack of preparation, it is he who’s demonized.

Moments that are supposed to be comic (look at how frazzled the mother of two is!) are instead unpleasant and mean. Would a mother really berate her husband so horribly, especially in front of their friends? Granted, I’m single and childfree, but I have many friends who are the opposite. Of course marriage and parenthood are extremely stressful, but I’ve never witnessed such terrible behavior. More often than not, I wanted Julie and Jason to find new comrades.

All is not lost in “Friends With Kids.” Westfeldt and Scott’s close friendship and their tenderness with baby Joe are lovingly accurate. Wiig and Hamm have a funny exchange early in the film, and Rudolph and O’Dowd have a believable chemistry. Perhaps Westfeldt was too close to her own material (and her own cast). With a few changes, “Friends With Kids” could have lived up to its considerable potential.

Film: 2.5 Yaps
Extras: 2 Yaps