Tuesday, April 03, 2012


I hesitate to recommend this movie because, like THE ARTIST, it might only be playing in three theaters in America (while HUNGER GAMES plays in all the rest). But should your Cineplex have 36 screens, perhaps one (the smallest) will have FRIENDS WITH KIDS. And if so, check it out.

Why might FRIENDS WITH KIDS be so hard to find? Because it’s geared to a minuscule subculture of moviegoers -- namely adults. Take any Adam Sandler comedy and this is the opposite of it. That alone should be enough to get you into the theater.

But on its own merit, FRIENDS WITH KIDS is worth seeing. It’s a smart ensemble romantic comedy about parenthood in upscale New York. Two best platonic friends decide to have a kid together trying to avoid the pitfalls their married friends have had once they became parents. WHEN HARRY KNOCKED UP SALLY.

Jennifer Westfeldt wrote, directed, and stars in it. Otherwise, she had nothing to do with the film. Oh wait – she also produced it. For my money, she was four-for-four. Most impressive to me was the screenplay. I found it so refreshing to follow characters who felt real, said funny things that actual human beings would say, and communicated without the benefit of pratfalls.

If you liked the cast of BRIDESMAIDS you’ll like this because it’s essentially the same group. Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, and Jon Hamm are all there. But be forewarned: no one defecates in the street in this movie. So attend at your own risk.

Starring along with Jennifer Westfeldt is Adam Scott -- the Adam who should be starring in screen comedies, not Sandler. Whether it’s PARKS AND RECREATION or PARTY DOWN or anything he’s in – Scott manages to steal every scene with just his pitch-perfect comic reactions. He and Jennifer make a lovely screen couple, even when they’re dating other people.

Full disclosure: I checked Rotten Tomatoes to see what the critics had to say and the reviews were essentially positive, but there were those who gave it thumbs down. So it’s either sharp, funny, and touching or cutesy, crass, and overfamiliar depending on who you believe.

 One thing I notice is that when film critics dislike comedies they always accuse them of being “sitcommy.” That’s the withering blow – the film is a glorified sitcom. I sure wish they’d specify which sitcom however. How many romcoms have you seen lately that are better than SEINFELD or FRASIER? But if the critics like a movie they never compare it to a sitcom. I noticed that with 21 JUMP STREET even though it is adapted from a TV action-comedy.

FRIENDS WITH KIDS. See it at a theater if it’s still in release where you are. Or it’ll be the movie showing on your next flight. Then there’s always ON DEMAND, NETFLIX, premium cable. And I’m sure each network is developing a sitcom based on the premise. For all I know Jennifer Westfeldt is writing, directing, and starring in three of them.


Chris said...

Friday question: how smart is it to write a bottle episode as a spec?

april said...

I saw it opening weekend and really enjoyed it.

Plus, Meghan Fox didn't make me want to leave the theater so that's quite an accomplishment.

Blaze said...

No defecating? No pratfalls? No Adam Sandler? Well, this being the New Age of Comedy, there must be non-stop dick jokes?

(Don't toy with me, please. It's been so long since I've seen a comedy that appealed to anyone over the age of eight.)

Richard J. Marcej said...

I saw this a couple weeks ago and was enjoying the film (the performances, characters, etc...) UNTIL- the end. I felt it was much too pat, too simple considering how smart the rest of the film had been.

Nicole said...

The movie was both sharp, funny, and touching (Rudolph, Hamm, Scott, Wiig,O'Dowd) AND cutesy, crass, and overfamiliar (Westfeldt).
The argument between Scott and Hamm was well written and honest.
The ending, as well as many other sprinkled moments, were far too When Harry Met Sally. "I didn't come here because I'm lonely..." "You can't do that, you can't come here and say something great and expect me to.."
It's basically WHMS for the 21st Century. If you're not saying it's a revamp, you're wrong.

Redhead said...

I saw this at the Landmark (thank God for Landmark...The Artist, Friends with Kids, midnight showings of The Room...all this great stuff, AND a lounge that sells inexpensive booze you can take into the theatre with you! But I digress) and wanted to like it more than I did.

You're spot-on that the movie is about actual, recognizable adults (and how sad is it that such things are a rarity in films), but I guess I just wanted the dialogue to be a bit wittier or the characters slightly more engaging. The storyline also meandered a bit too much for my liking, though I'm profoundly grateful that it didn't follow the typical Hollywood Hit template.

I would recommend it as a DVD rental with no reservations. For $10, it felt a bit flat. However, I'd love to see Westenfeldt write and direct something else. This one felt like a near-miss to me, but an honorable one. I truly don't understand how anybody could call it "crass"...it just isn't.

Redhead said...

Oh, and why did they make Chris O'Dowd (Roy on The IT Crowd) speak with an American accent? His natural Irish lilt is part of his charm, and I think would've worked to give his character (who's a bit of a lout) more dimensions.

-bee said...

I agree with you that for many years now the writing on top-flight sitcoms is far superior to that in film comedies - where it seems like only about one or two (if that many) really good rom-coms come out per year.

Not that the good sitcoms out there are necessarily appreciated, latest example: Cougartown.

Maybe I misread your comment about "21 Jump Street" but if memory serves, the ORIGINAL show had no comedic elements (at least not intentionally) but was a straight 'drama' that took itself very seriously.

cadavra said...

In a related story, my latest script--a comedy for grown-ups--was just passed on by a studio despite their acknowledgment that it was "well-written, very funny and charming and had great characters and dialogue." Their explanation was--wait for it--"it's not what we do."

Jake James said...

This should be a Friday question, but since I'm watching Frasier (on the WE Tv channel) I'm asking now. Did you (and David) write the character of the over-the-top Bebe Glazer (and how was she found - she was brilliant)?

Redhead said...

cadavra: So by its own admission, that studio does NOT do work that's well-written and charming, with great characters and dialogue?


Joe Menta said...

Thanks for the tip, Ken. New reader here, turned onto you by Mark Evanier's blog. I'm already enjoying the heck out of "Justified", so thanks for that tip, too!

Paul B said...

Mark Evanier has great video clip of John Cleese discussing creativity on his newsfromme.com blog. (Only fair to plug him, since I found you from a plug on his website.) I would love to know what you think of it.

Mike said...

Ken, I gave it a good review. I loved the script. Westfeldt did a great job and I agree that Adam Scott was the find of the movie. With all the crap comedies that we critics have to see (any Adam Sandler film in the past 5 years as an example), you would think more of us would praise a film like this.

cadavra said...

Redhead: Actually, the problem is that it's the wrong target audience. They make movies for children and stupid teens. An occasional adult picture does get greenlit, but by big-name talent that the studio wants to work with.

WV: "simise"--The star of CSI: BRONX ZOO.

Caronis said...

I found the movie "Friends with Kids" way too hoighty toighty. I prefer this new Movie I have heard that's coming out called, "Kids with Friends". It has defecation, vomit, and the loss of virginity . . . I think all in one scene too!

Dan Tedson said...

I usually stab myself in the earballs before checking out a romantic comedy. It's a pet peeve of mine how EVERY Hollywood flick has to have a love story in it. I mean, Christ, they gave Pirates of the Caribbean a love story for fucksake. Pirates don't love. They rape. Granted, they *love* rape, but heartwarming romantic comedies don't usually center around a boy and his rape.

That said, this looks pretty damn good. It reminds me of Away we Go, a 2009 flick also with Rudolph that was funny as hell. Also it has Kristen Wiig, the funniest earth female alive, and Roy from IT Crowd, who I'm sure has another name. Thanks for turning me onto it.

P.S. Rape.

Boris said...

That's why it is sometimes better to live in Europe. True, the movie starts some months later, but you can see it anywhere.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

One of the sad things for me in recent years has been the godawful things that have been released under the name of romantic comedies.

I agree in liking the dialogue in this one and definitely scenes like the one in the lodge are written for and about adults.

But the premise! It reminds me of - of all things - Something About Mary, when the crass best friend tells Ben Stiller's character to "clean out the tubes" before going on a date so he'll be relaxed instead of nervous. Have the baby first, then you won't worry so much about the ticking biological clock? And these two friends are going to figure out how to have a baby and not destroy the relationship? They're in their *30s*. These are the only people they know with kids? Their only role models? As George Costanza said to Seinfeld when he proposed to have relationship-free sex with Elaine, based on a set of rules, "Where do you get the ego?" (Them, not you.)

I have had many close male friends in my life starting in high school. Friends who really *are* just friends. Based on my experience, I'd say that if you don't fall in love the first year, you aren't *going* to fall in love.

And what a horrible, horrible last line(s).

Not sorry I saw it, but still.


Mike said...

The premise sounds stupid.


They're going to have kids and then romance someone else later?

Rob in Toronto said...

The first thing I thought of when I saw this film was that the premise had been similarly explored with Rebecca and Sam on Cheers at the beginning of season 10.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I've just realized what's missing from the ending. As he climbs aboard with that deathlessly romantic line, the baby should start crying.


Redhead said...

cadavra: Yeah, I figured it was something like that, but I just couldn't resist that set-up. The exec tells you "Your script is well-written, charming, and has wonderful characters...we don't do that here."

danrydell said...

I liked it, but the dialog at the end of the movie, and some during the main part, seemed lazy. "I want to f--- the s--- out of you"? I'm no prude, but that seemed just slap-dash, "Hey let's finish the movie with a flourish" sloppy.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

dannydell: can you imagine *that* being the big romantic moment of your life?



Portugal said...

At a high school graduation party, overweight Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) attempts to reveal his true feelings for his best friend Jamie Palomino (Amy Smart), but ends up making an utter fool of himself. What's worse, his humiliation takes place in front of his jeering teenage peers.She's no ordinary girl