Friends with Kids

Hollywood movies have some pretty hard and fast rules when it comes to relationships between men and women. If a woman ever gets nauseous, it’s because she’s pregnant. If a man has lots of meaningless sex, then his life will be just as meaningless. And if a man and a woman are best friends, then they’re going to have sex and make things awkward.

In this year’s version of that story, those best friends are Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt, who also wrote and directed the film) and Jason (Adam Scott, playing a character very similar to his last role in Our Idiot Brother). They’re nearly inseparable, but there’s no sexual tension between them, allowing them to sleep with whomever they want and share the details with each other. They’re also friends with two married couples, Leslie and Alex (Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd) and Missy and Ben (Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm), and they all have lots of fun together. But that all changes when the married couples start to have kids, and those kids start to dominate their lives.

On the one hand, Jason and Julie see what their friends’ lives have become are glad they don’t have to deal with this. On the other, Julie’s biological clock is ticking and she doesn’t feel like she’ll be able to have a truly great relationship with a man with the pressure of her wanting a baby hanging over them. So of course the best solution for this problem is to have a baby first and then go looking for Mr. Right. And Jason is right there for her and vows he’ll be totally committed in his role as baby daddy.

The basic story is one that’s been told many times before, and usually as a comedy, so there aren’t too many surprises lurking in Friends with Kids. I’d say the biggest surprise for me was just how inconsistent the comedy was, with long stretches that didn’t seem to attempt any humor at all, and several of the comedic scenes not having their intended effect. I’d heard a lot of comparisons made to the 2011 smash hit Bridesmaids, but other than sharing a few of the main characters (Wiig, Hamm, Rudolph, and O’Dowd), there’s not a whole lot of commonality. What comedy there is in the film exists primarily between Westfeldt and Scott, and Wiig and Hamm were largely unfunny and generally disruptive to the overall flow of the movie. The film would have been stronger if the characters played by Wiig and Hamm had been cut out completely, as the purpose they serve is largely duplicated by the characters played by Rudolph and O’Dowd, and the latter couple was much less unenjoyable.

Removing Wiig and Hamm would have also helped cut down on the film’s runtime, which is about fifteen minutes too long. Removing the weaker characters and concentrating the comedy would’ve resulted in a much more fun 90-minute film. But the predictable plot and inevitable conclusion make all the flaws in Friends with Kids more readily apparent and harder to overlook.