I admit I have a soft spot for a well done dramedy- especially one with a phenomenal supporting cast. I wasn’t expecting much out of FRIENDS WITH KIDS and I emerged from the theater more than just pleasantly surprised. A film like this could not have asked for a better cast without seeming greedy and overstuffed, but as it is the film is funny, sweet and surprisingly satisfying for being somewhat predictable and a bit slow in the middle.
FRIENDS WITH KIDS explores the concept of two friends, Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) – trying to have a kid together while keeping their “just friends” relationship in tact- thus skipping the messy break up and unpleasant feelings that they perceive comes with marriage. The arrangement appears to be working perfectly as they both manage to stay productive and happy much to the dismay of their close friends who are all married with kids of their own, but having a much bumpier go of it. Things start getting messy when Jason meets and begins dating a young dancer, Mary Jane (Megan Fox), while Julie begins to discover feelings for Jason she didn’t think she had.
It would be inaccurate to say I felt that FRIENDS WITH KIDS was a film without flaws or even a film that has crowd pleaser written all over it. The fact of the matter is that it has the makings of a crowd pleasing film but inevitably the film might prove to be too much of an uneven mix of raunchy humor, awkward confrontations and sappy drama- all of which worked wonders for me and I enjoyed ALMOST every bit of it. Also as the film hits its midpoint the laughs disappear for a little while and some of the more interesting drama also takes a breather.
I honestly believe that this movie wouldn’t have been as great as it was without the phenomenal cast. Push aside the fantastic Adam Scott for a moment and take notice to the fact that four BRIDESMAIDS costars are back at work here which include Jon Hamm, Mya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd. Hamm is great especially in a super awkward dinner scene with Adam Scott, Wiig stretches some dramatic muscle as well although she takes a backseat for a majority of the film. Mya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd serve as the film’s main source of comic relief as well as providing some moments of genuine sweetness in the midst of the chaos marriage can hold. Westfeldt is pretty adorable and plays well with Scott, but the Parks & Rec/Party Down star really shines here. Scott really harnesses his comedic timing in a subtle but charming way while also really knocking some of the more dramatic scenes out of the park. The aforementioned dinner scene where everyone’s dirty laundry starts flying all over the place Scott and Hamm go head to head in one of the film’s more hard hitting scenes. The tension around the table just builds to an excruciating level and you’re waiting for someone to just snap but when it happens it’s not quite as explosive as you’d expect but is still a pretty memorable moment in the film. Lastly, while she’s not in the film predominantly, Megan Fox shows that she has the capability to act even if she is still used as a sex symbol- though not as blatantly as in a Michael Bay movie.
There’s a lot of really clever writing throughout- much of it obviously utilizing the intricacies of marriage and the types of unpleasant things you sometimes have to deal with in a committed relationship. The danger of the constant stream of jokes is that it can feel like a one trick pony at times but the sobering dynamic of Scott’s relationship with Westfeldt anchors the film and provides a break in the steady dose of marriage humor. The film also engages on a dark level as well because it portrays the complexity of making a marriage work very well while also throwing the even more complex topic of making a marriage work once kids enter the picture. I found the way the writers pushed across the characters to be very grounded, but at times a bit overstated at times just to emphasize a joke or insert a more dramatic arc.
It’s true- I entered into the world of a romantic comedy and embraced it with an enthusiasm uncommon amongst most male viewers of the genre. For me the film came very close to hitting the extremely pleasant surprise that CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE did the previous year. Where most hackneyed examples of the genre fail FRIENDS WITH KIDS succeeds- creating genuine charm and sweetness with an R rated sense of humor and just enough quirks within its sappiness to be a perfect date movie that guys can enjoy. Predictable character arcs are trumped by the endearing nature of the film’s intentions as well as the fantastic performances from the leads and the dream team level supporting cast. A warning to the men though, if you and your significant other haven’t talked about having kids yet, FRIENDS WITH KIDS may just be the loving shove she needs to start the conversation- despite how terrifying the film sometimes depicts having children to be.
Reviewed By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)