May the farce be with you in this smart and funny rom-com
- Last Updated: 11:53 AM, March 9, 2012
- Posted: 10:25 PM, March 8, 2012
FRIENDS WITH KIDS
Domestic bliss. Running time: 109 minutes. Rated R (profanity, raunchy humor, sexual situations). At the Lincoln Square, the Kips Bay, the E-Walk, others.
Previously clever, entertaining and funny, marrieds Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd) are now angry, irritable and prone to falling asleep at the table. Are they suffering from disease? Depression? Unemployment? Satanic possession? No, worse: They have a kid.
In “Friends With Kids,” their pals Julie and Jason (Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott), best buds who aren’t attracted to each other, vow never to be like Leslie and Alex. But would it be kind of cool to have a kid without the grim permanence of marriage? They decide to hook up, have a child and split the baby-rearing (they live in different apartments but the same building) while each goes on to live the carefree single life.
Credit Westfeldt, who is also the writer and director, with a classic setup for farce, brightly executed. People think romantic comedies are easy. They aren’t. Consider the old gag about how simple it would be to do stand-up: All you have to do is say, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! Joke, joke. Where you from? Joke, joke, joke, joke. You’ve been a great audience! Joke, joke.”
Westfeldt, who co-wrote and starred in the beguiling “Kissing Jessica Stein” in 2001 and these days seems better-known as “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm’s paramour, comes up with a genuinely sharp script worthy of “Seinfeld,” full of punchy one-liners and clue-ful insights on dating, New York and parenthood. We learn of the devastating one-two combo (played by the new parents) of the “baby card” and the “Brooklyn card,” which obliges the grumbling Manhattanites to undertake an epic journey and pay a $45 cab fare.
For all of the hilarious, raunchy talk and contemporary feel, though, in the second half the movie gets stuck in some well-worn “When Harry and Sally Met Parenthood” grooves. Poopy diapers are involved. Jule and Jase each start dating sexy new partners (Edward Burns, Megan Fox), but then miss each other. Burns and Fox, though, continue to be boring actors, and neither comes across as nearly nimble enough to keep up with Westfeldt’s savvy other characters.
Moreover, things take a needlessly harsh detour in the second half (which ends with one of the most charmless closing lines ever uttered in a rom-com). The dark subplot involves a third couple of friends played by Hamm and Kristen Wiig. (Didn’t they learn anything from their bad mojo in “Bridesmaids”?) Wiig’s comic gifts are wasted. Hamm, though, continues to be an interesting actor willing to play his dashing looks against a repellent character. In “30 Rock,” “Bridesmaids,” this movie and “Mad Men,” he is proving a specialist in projects created or mostly written by women. Media studies students searching for thesis material: You’re welcome.