(*homocinematically inclined)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Reel Thoughts: Friends in Low Places

One time… at Band Camp... actually, it was in a Creative Writing class... I was tasked with writing a story in which I used as much profanity as I could, since it was something I never did in my writing. The resulting story could have turned out like Jennifer Westfeldt’s Friends with Kids, but I succeeded much better than the Kissing Jessica Stein actress.

Definitely hoping to ride the wedding dress train of Bridesmaids, Friends with Kids is an adult-themed relationship film with raunchy bits grafted on like a bad science experiment. With Bridesmaids alums like Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolf and Jon Hamm, it is tempting to compare the films, but they really aren’t even in the same genre. Westfeldt is going for a Woody Allen-type ensemble comedy, but unfortunately, she is done in by two fatal flaws: her own blandly wooden performance, and the aforementioned badly done raunchiness.

Westfeldt comes off like Lisa Kudrow with all charm, quirkiness and charisma removed. She creates a void at the center of her own film, no matter how hard costar Adam Scott works to make up for her shortcomings. The misfired nastiness includes extended improbable discussions about vaginal tightness and yet another explosive baby diarrhea scene straight out of last year’s horrible comedy The Change-Up.

The premise of Friends with Kids really doesn’t hold water. After seeing how miserable all of their coupled friends are after having children, platonic best buddies Julie (Westfeldt) and Jason (Scott) decide that they should have a no-strings attached baby; that way they can share custody half the time and enjoy their single life the other half... what could go wrong? Of course, these pals are deluding themselves, because they both get jealous when the other finds a hot person to date, Ed Burns as a perfect gentleman in her case and Megan Fox as a Broadway actress starring in Chicago in his case.

The conflicts are as unconvincing as Westfeldt’s dirty talk, and because the main wedge in their friendship/baby timeshare arrangement is unbelievable, so is the resolution. Fox is made to be a child-hater, for instance, and Westfeldt makes Julie totally unsympathetic by having her throw herself at Jason when he is clearly in a relationship with Fox. How did she think it would turn out? All of the issues raised in Friends with Kids could have worked (and almost do at times), but Westfeldt is too involved with the material to realize when it goes off the rails. Also, what does it say when the two most unsympathetic characters are played by Westfeldt and her real-life honey Hamm?

Friends with Kids should be commended for putting New York actors to work, but I am surprised that Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum aren’t vilifying the movie for being a contraceptive device. The film made me never want to have kids, so it is more successful at birth control than condoms.

Reel Thoughts Rating: C

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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