Starring: Adam Scott, Jennifer Wesfeldt, Jon Hamm
Directed by: Jennifer Wesfeldt (“Kissing Jessica Stein”)
Written by: Jennifer Wesfeldt (“Kissing Jessica Stein”)
These days there are so many ways to have a family that hardly anything could really be classified as “unconventional.” But when long-time best friends Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Wesfeldt) devise a plan to have a child without subjecting themselves to the pitfalls of marriage, their friends cannot believe they could follow through with such a crazy scheme. This experiment of essentially going halfsies with the responsibilities of a child sets the stage for “Friends with Kids,” a dramedy that starts off uniquely funny but ultimately loses steam in its familiar dénouement.
Scott remains one of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets. Although not as dynamic as his stunning role in 2009’s “The Vicious Kind,” he shows he is perfectly capable of anchoring a movie in a lead role. He has a very natural and understated comic delivery and he is no doubt at his best when he is being a little abrasive. The rest of the cast is somewhat of a reunion from the film “Bridesmaids,” as four principal cast members from that film are in “Friends with Kids.” While Jon Hamm has a couple of great scenes to work with, the rest of the “Bridesmaids” alum doesn’t contribute much. For example, Chris O’Dowd sports a very strange accent that is hard to distinguish and Maya Rudolph’s character exists only to nag. It’s hard to believe director/writer Wesfeldt couldn’t even give the versatile Kristen Wiig something more to do other than drink wine and give piercing stares.
The set up in “Friends with Kids” is respectable, with a unique spin on the romantic comedy with two platonic friends agreeing to have a kid. It continues to be unique when just about everything goes perfectly smooth and there aren’t any problems. Of course, nobody would want to watch a movie about a situation working flawlessly and things inevitably begin to crumble. And as with the events on screen, so goes the structure of the film as it begins to feel formulaic and familiar.
“Friends with Kids” is certainly not a “laugh-out-loud” type of comedy. The humor is predominantly subtle and largely thanks to Scott’s knack for biting sarcasm. The film is certainly at its best when it hits its dramatic beats. One especially fantastic scene in particular is when Scott and Hamm’s characters have a war of words at a dinner table. In this scene, we get to see Scott’s acting chops on full display. When the film displays the chaos and strain having children can create in a relationship is when things get authentic.
The film ends with Wesfeldt uttering a strand of six utterly unromantic words that is almost certain to rub a good portion of the audience the wrong way. With the triple duty of acting, writing and directing, Wesfeldt probably should have focused her attention on making just one of those elements stand out instead of providing three so-so efforts spread around. It isn’t a terrible movie, but one can’t help feel like “Friends with Kids” could have been so much more.