In “Friends with Kids” a platonic couple are forced to examine the true nature of their relationship after they decide to have a child with no strings attached. The premise sounds familiar but, like “Bridesmaids” from last year, “Friends with Kids” takes a tired premise in a tired genre and breathes some new life into it.
Writer / director Jenifer Westfeldt also stars as Julie, a hip New Yorker who, like her best friend Jason (Adam Scott of “Parks and Recreation”) is looks at their married-with-kids- friends with a mixture of amusement and disgust. From their point of view their pals have traded freedom for lives of quiet desperation. Worse, when the babies came they all moved to Brooklyn, a seventy-dollar cab ride away.
One night after shots of expensive tequila they decide that even though they aren’t attracted to one another they could still beat the system and have baby “without all the problems that come with marriage.” Their social experiment bears fruit, so to speak, with the birth of their son. They successfully co-parent until jealousies and the possibility of true love rear their heads.
A study of self-centered people afraid to give up their independence “Friends with Kids” is rescued from a sitcom premise by an engaging cast who keep the laughs coming but can also delve into drama when necessary.
Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd play the disheveled and over-tired Leslie and Alex to snarky perfection, while Jon Hamm (Westfeldt’s longtime partner) and Kristin Wiig provide the bulk of the film’s edge. It’s all fun and games until Hamm gets drunk at a dinner party and lets his true feelings about Julie and Jason’s arrangement be known.
It is moments like that which give the movie some depth. The raw emotion on display is uncommon for a rom com like this, but it works. Unfortunately its mostly downhill from there.
The final twenty minutes of the movie reverts to a sitcom-rom com formula, ending with the absolute worst seduction speech in the history of cinema.
It’s not enough to ruin the movie, but the preceding hour was so full of charm, wit and insight, it’s a shame to see it squandered before the credits roll.