STARS: Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, John Hamm, Chris O'Dowd, Megan Fox
DIRECTOR: Jennifer Westfeldt
GENRE: Romantic Comedy/ Drama
Maya Rudolph, with her hair pinned up, (not a flattering style for most women--flat-out dreadful on her) and looking matronly in that bloated kind of way-- with the sound of young children screaming in the background--is enough to give any fancy-free bachelor the heebie jeebies about the prospect of "connubial bliss" in the new romantic comedy, Friends With Kids.
Kyra Sedgwick look-alike Jennifer Westfeldt writes, directs, and stars as Julie-- a thirty-something New Yorker whose biological clock is ticking. She and longtime best friend, Jason, (Adam Scott) observe their married friends, Leslie and Alex, (Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd) and Missy and Ben, (Kristen Wiig & John Hamm) and figure there must be a better formula. Neither Julie nor Jason have found anyone they want to settle down with, but both are amenable to the idea of child rearing, And though they are not physically attracted to one another, they decide to "do it" one time, become pregnant, and raise the child together while keeping their relationship platonic--which gives them both the freedom to continue to screw around with whomever. THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS!
Ah, if only there were such a thing.
So out pops an adorable kid, and things go along nicely for about two years, as our friends- without-benefits couple feels they've beaten the system and avoided the pitfalls of the dreary lives their married friends with kids have settled into. Jason meets his perfect woman, a Broadway dancer named Mary Jane, (Megan Fox) and Julie finds her hunky guy, and hey...it appears that what we have here is a forward thinking, avant garde kind of romantic comedy!
Not so fast, Kemosabe!
You can bend, but not break the romcom formula, and the ending of Friends With Kids is telegraphed from the time Jason and Julie's little scheme is hatched--though there are plenty of deftly placed road hazards along the way to keep many a- guessing about that.
The film kicks into another gear when their son asks: WHY DOESN'T DADDY STAY ALL NIGHT? Aha...now we've all got to stop and think about what it means to be a REAL mom and dad--and that becomes the essential and lingering question in Friends With Kids--and it's what gives the movie its deeper and more contemplative tone.
If you buy the idea set forth in When Harry Met Sally--that men and women cannot TRULY be friends, (unless they're both hideous) because there is always this subtle boy-girl thing operating beneath the surface, then the oh-how-I-could-never-be-attracted-to-you thing is a bit overplayed here. Both Jason and Julie are attractive people, and the awkwardness and near revulsion they seem to feel for each other when they initially hop into bed to do the deed is played for laughs--not realism!
Jennifer Westfeldt is just as big a potty-mouth as any male screenwriter, which may or may not add to your enjoyment of this film. I think I was the only guy in the theater--surrounded by chicks on all sides--and they were yukking it up throughout.
Oh, how jaded we've all become. Guess my old-fashioned side is showing, but I think we guys have lost some kind of edge when women can no longer be shocked by in-your-face sexuality.
Grade: B +