'Friends with Kids' Review: Familiar Story Yields Unexpected Pleasures

'Friends with Kids' Review: Familiar Story Yields Unexpected Pleasures

“Friends with Kids” could have been a familiar dramedy about two friends planning to maintain a platonic relationship while raising a child. Instead, this new film is surprisingly funny, wickedly smart and unmistakably heartwarming.

Jennifer Westfeldt–who previously brought us “Kissing Jessica Stein”–wrote, directed and stars in this story of three couples in different stages of their relationships. The main couple is played by Westfeldt and Adam Scott, who portray Julie Keller and Jason Fryman. They’re the best of friends who share everything with each other. They don’t mind calling each other in the middle of the night, and they love asking each “which would you rather,” a game where a person decides between two terrible options (i.e. Which would you rather do: die in a fire or a car crash?).

But Julie and Jason are both single in a world where everyone around them is married. They spend much of their time with two long-term couples. Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’ Dowd) are a happily married duo raising a pair of rugrats.

Ben (Jon Hamm) and Missy (Kristen Wiig), by comparison, are young and carefree until they, too, welcome a child into their lives. That isolates Julie and Jason as two single people in their 30s waiting for their respective partners. Both want children, but neither can find someone to settle down with so they decide–on a whim–to have a child and raise it together as best friends.

Although this plot sounds uninspired, Westfeldt makes it feel fresh and fun. She’s aided by a wonderful script that showcases the flaws and frustrations of each of these characters. At an important scene late in the story the six friends sit around a table along with two more chums, played by Edward Burns and Megan Fox.

The sequence shows how much chemistry the cast members share, and it probably helps that four of the actors previously worked together in last year’s smash comedy “Bridemaids.” They inhabit characters you want to spend time with. It should be noted that Wiig is as wonderful as usual, but what stands out is how unexpected heartbreaking her performance is. Although Wiig is a comic actress, there are a few dramatic scenes here where she flashes her range. In “Friends with Kids,” she easily earns the audience’s sympathies and support.

Romantic films too often rely on predictable clichés and forgettable love stories. “Friends” is so much more than that. Walking out of the theater, I just wanted to hug this movie. The script is wonderful. The characters are well-written.

So far, “Friends with Kids” is my favorite movie of 2012.


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