Movie Review: Friends with Kids (2011)

When Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) and longtime platonic friend Jason (Adam Scott) decide to have a baby together and split the parenting duties right down the middle, their friends (Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Chris O’Dowd) are dubious at best.  When the experiment seems to work fairly well, everyone’s surprised.  Then Julie and Jason start dating other people again (Ed Burns, Megan Fox), and complications arise.

Friends With Kids marks Westfeldt’s directorial debut.  She wrote and starred in 2001’s Kissing Jessica Stein, a bi-curious comedy that seems almost tame compared to the movies produced today.  In Friends With Kids, Westfeldt attemps to explore the complications that arise when two people decide to have kids–whether or not they decide to do it in the traditional way.  Unfortunately, the result is only partially successful, and the film’s decision to end in a predictable, obvious way makes whatever impact it could have had much, much weaker.

That’s not for lack of trying, either.  Westfeldt has surrounded herself with a cast of great actors.  Real-life partner Jon Hamm, it-girl Kirsten Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and Chris O’Dowd all do the best they can with what they’re given.  However it is Scott who really shines here, proving that he can play leading man material so long as he’s allowed to have some quirks.  Unfortunately the cast can’t make up for an overlong, overly familiar premise.  We’ve seen this before–a lot–and there isn’t really anything new to add to the discussion.

For a movie so concerned with how parenthood changes people, Westfeldt shows no actual interest in children.  The child she has with Scott’s character is a chubby-cheeked plot device and offers no depth or dimension to the story.  Instead of concerning itself with the construction of families, the movie focuses instead on the will-they-won’t-they plot until the audience is practically comatose with apathy.

There are some funny moments, and a couple of astute observations about men and women and children.  In the end, though, Friends With Kids is too talky, too predictable, and too inflated with its own superior sense of what it is.  I wanted it to be so much better than it was.

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