Friends with Kids
No Zing’s Attached…
There have been Friends with Benefits and Friends with Money, but now the friends from Bridesmaids turn their eye to parenting in the so-similarly-titled-its-creepy ‘Friends With Kids’. Despite the appearance of a host of proven acting talents, amongst them, Jennifer Westfeldt’s long-time boyfriend, mad man Jon Hamm, it’s definitely worth sparing a thought for the former, as it is most definitely her film. She writes, directs, produces and stars in the film that recovers half of its cast from last years massive hit, Bridesmaids. Although it’s a huge leap to step from her boyfriends shadow, (her most memorable appearance was in Kissing Jessica Stein, which was actually 10 years ago), its a directorial debut that hardly amounts to the success of Bridesmaids, even though it has the advantage of being filmed before it, an unshakeable shame that the film seldom lands any impressive jokes worth mention- and its much too unfunny to be called a comedy.
The issue is made clear with a running gag that never quite sticks, in the mixed opening, the two bffs deliberate their preferred way of passing- “would you rather die by shark or crocodile?” It’s a quirky curb that should work, but just doesn’t register as anything more than tolerable. Instead, it becomes tiresome.
That said, at least it has a fascinating premise, albeit one that’s novelty wears off quickly. It follows two best friends, Jason (Park and Recreations Adam Scott), and Julie (Westfeldt), who, surrounded by friends who have had their marriages tumble-down after having little ones, decide to pop one out on the basis of a strictly nonsexual relationship, minus the hoo-ha that comes with it; this means the both of them can date without restrictions, in a like-for-like arrangement wherein they share the baby-work (“I will be 100 percent committed to this. Half of the time”, Scott cracks). It’s an experimental arrangement that, if you know already goes awry, congratulations! You’ve seen the trailer. So, Friends with Benefits but with, erm, less casual sex and more explosive diarrhea (Yes, this does happen). Unlike that though, it has a surprising grip on reality (as the troublesome ending denotes).
It’s obviously a profound transformation, and one that, is mainly handled well by Westfeldt- it quickly degenerates into a mildly amusing game of outdoing each other with the class of their dates (Megan Fox plays the hotty, go figure). And, despite all its glaring flaws, the adept supporting cast –Kristen Wigg, Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd), along with some artfully sweeping shots of New York, which continues to be of obvious affection to Westfeldt, give it some much-needed gravitas when it comes to multiplexes. Although O’Dowd principally suffers in an awful American Accent, he can be a source of humor amongst Hamm, who seemingly continues his sleazebag, sex-starved character in Bridesmaids. The film also gets a massive lift when the baby comes into their lives, if dragging out the gist of it in a film that could of easily had 10 minutes chopped off. Tactlessly, Hamm and Wigg are so utterly underwritten, save for a dining table confrontation that, at a meager 10 minutes, is the films highlight, that one might crave the unrestrained comedy of Saturday Night Live, which both have made appearance’s in. Furthermore, apart from the two leads, the characters are mostly mope-sided and look disinterested, a shadow of the exuberance one might see them emulate with the shackles off.
This isn’t even the only issue highlighted. You can’t knock the feeling that, like a mother dancing around their daughters feelings in regards to the ‘how its done’ of parenting skills, the cast have nominated to encourage Westfeldt, who, as a first-timer, indeed shows some knowing to the ins and outs of directing.
Its not all bad, the two leads put in spot-on performances- Adam Scott’s delivery is always intentionally acerbic, sarcastic and, in the end, surprisingly dramatic- and Westfeldt isn’t always easy-she’s cynical rather- of what obvious strain children can have on relationships, and shows authentic awareness, having had numerous friends in comparable situations, on the topic. This still can’t betray that the film is anything more than a predictable one.
A release about friends with kids made by a close knit of friends, its not inherently bad, but neither is it especially good, always missing the jokes that, lacking zest and energy, sit this film at middle-of-the-road status. Still, with the well-conceived comments it makes, and some smart dialogue, you’d like to see what more Westfeldt could muster.