Lionsgate // 2011 // 107 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 1st, 2012
Ah, children. Those little miracles that make life worth living, unless you're an upper crust yuppie; then they're the one thing standing in the way of expensive wine tastings and keeping crayon marks off your leather couches.
Which reminds me, Friends with Kids is now on Blu-ray care of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.
Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt, Kissing Jessica Stein) and Jason (Adam Scott, Parks and Recreation) are two single, platonic best buds with one thing in common: they both want a kid. Neither has found the love of their life, but they've seen how being married and having children has wreaked havoc on their social circle: Missy (Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids) and her husband Ben (Jon Hamm, Mad Men) are dealing with the trials of child rearing, while Alex (Chris O'Dowd, Bridesmaids again) and Leslie (Maya Rudolph, wait...was everyone from Bridesmaids in this movie?) have gotten into a comfortable parenting groove that seems more friendly than passionate.
Jason and Julie come up with a novel idea: have a child and raise it together (they only deal with it half of the time each!), then keep dating and enjoying the high life of unattached sexual mingling (with Edward Burns and Megan Fox, no less) without being tied down. Things get complicated (well, duh) when one of them begins to have feelings for the other, and...well, if you don't know how this ends, you've apparently been living under a large rock since birth.
The world we live in was a very different place fifty years ago. A new age is upon us, where the traditional family has made way for non-traditional families, including mixed races, mixed sexes, and everything in between. We can make kids inside test tubes, adopt them from Belize, or have them by renting someone else's uterus. The options are wide open and the sky (it seems) is truly the limit. As proof, Friends with Kids shows us we can bump uglies with our best friend, have a kid, and still have time for the bar scene. How lovely...
This is a mildly amusing trifle of a film, the kind that wants to show you how hip and cool it is by having characters discuss horribly intimate details of their lives with each other, including (but not limited to) how large their penises are, how cavernous their vaginas are, and how good/bad each is at sexual intercourse. Yes, what I just said is slightly raunchy, but I said it as fair warning: if that made you bristle, stay as far away from Friends with Kids as you can. The movie is populated with characters who look like movie stars but talk like sailors just getting into port.
It's not that I have issues with harsh language or touchy subject matter; I just have issues when it's not used in a context that feels authentic to the characters. Julie seems like such a sweet woman that the coarse language never feels true to her character, but more like a screenwriter trying to court controversy with a potty mouth. Adam Scott is a likable actor who seems to be saddled with a character that is unlikable from the start; he focuses so much on sex that it's like he wandered in from a sexual addictions meeting at the church next door. Jennifer Westfeldt's screenplay feels like it wants to have some kind of big thing to say about the idea of having a kid with your best friend, but it doesn't. It just ends up being a conventional rom-com with a few big ideas lurking under the surface, none of which are touched upon.
It's interesting that so many big name actors took roles in this film. Clearly, it was done as a favor to Westfeldt. How else can you account for such hot properties? Even more interesting is that they're all fringe players; none of them get much screen time, making their performances feel like cameos. Megan Fox proves her acting skills are limited to looking pretty and acting as if every man on the planet wants her. Rudolph and Wiig are play the nagging wives, while Jon Hamm (Westfeldt's real life beau) proves that someone needs to write a really good comedy and give him the lead (he's the funniest thing about this movie). Edward Burns just shows up to cash a paycheck. It's almost surreal to see so many talented players with almost nothing to do.
As Friends with Kids careens towards its conclusion, we get an eerie feeling of déjà vu. Will it surprise you to learn that the movie starts off as an unconventional comedy and then ends about as conventionally as humanly possible? It's almost disappointing Friends with Kids didn't have the conviction to follow through on its premise; it's not that the film would have ended up any better, but at least it would have felt more authentic. Instead Friends with Kids ends with a whimper -- a familiar, obvious, eye rolling whimper.
Presented in 1.78:1/1080p high definition widescreen, the transfer is clean, sharp, and free of any defects or imperfections. While the visuals aren't overly stunning (this is a dialogue driven comedy, after all), the image is solid. Much like the video, the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix suits the film well. It's not an overwhelmingly exciting experience, but rather a front heavy mix with a smattering of moments that utilize the side or rear speakers (mostly music cues or ambient sounds). Also included are English and Spanish subtitles.
A limited array of bonus features include an audio commentary with Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, and cinematographer William Rexer; a blooper reel; a few featurettes ("Making Friends with Kids," "Scene 42: Anatomy of a Gag," "MJ Rocks at Video Games"), and some deleted scenes with optional commentary.
Friends with Kids is a mediocre weekend rental and little else. It doesn't have much to say about friends or kids, except that if you're going to buck convention, you should be prepared to give in to tradition. I'm not sure that's what the film meant to say, but it's the moral I gleaned.
Needs a long nap and a snack.
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Blooper Reel