Friends with Kids – Art 1/5 Ent 4/5 Worth 4/5
In Friends with Kids, I have to say that I enjoy the stab into the new pagan/heathen/post-Christian morality of the post-Atomic family. What I don’t like is that the film feels uncomfortable claiming a stake in this territory, and winds up as normal as any other rom-com, even more retrograde than Kramer vs. Kramer, which was cutting edge and made the Jesus bake-sale people cringe all the fuck way back in NINETEEN SEVENTY NINE. The Kids Are Alright, although sticking with the script for the traditional, historical bourgeois family life, flipped that script with a lesbian couple at the helm of the family, and had more to admire in that it explored the meaning of parenthood among sperm donors. Friends with Kids just seems content to test the waters of an unconventional post-modern relationship. Both future parents, who are simply platonic friends, decide to get busy for the sake of finally having kids without being like their miserable married friends. They shut themselves off from emotional attachment and shirk the inquisitive groans from their traditionally judgmental friends when the project sets itself into play. Then the narrative becomes about the glue of romantic love between the two in spite of their cerebral lack of glue. Although it’s well written, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with traditional bourgeois marriage, the concept just seems dated before it’s wheeled out before us. It’s the Hackers of relationships.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: comedy movies just aren’t that funny compared to the puerile brilliance you get on TV or the internet. Romantic comedies aren’t comedic any more than the war movies with an ounce of levity to cut the tension are. Humor has been effectively democratized for a brilliant middle melange between the joke artistry of stand-up comedians and the “you had to be there” contextual comedy of friends. This has stripped much of the shock and luster from many comedy films that seem like grandpa yelling at his whippersnapper children “messing about” in his rumpus room. What the comedy film has morphed into lately is either the guerrilla Borat film which is genuinely funny for its shock and unexpectedness, or the Judd Apatow / Frat Pack films, one indistinguishable “romp” from another, or the raunchier and more earthy version of the ’90s indie dramedy that typically starred Parker Posey. Jennifer Westfeldt returns from the wilderness after writing a perfect example of the latter in 2001′s Kissing Jessica Stein, and imports half of the cast (including life partner Jon Hamm) of a perfect synthesis of Apatow and Parker Posey in Bridesmaids – last year’s breakout hit where ladies finally became funny to gents, all at the cost of having to act like gents.
But the lead actor in Friends with Kids exposes its chief weakness. Adam Scott, a personal friend of couple Westfeldt and Hamm, absolutely kills here, is consistently amusing and makes a case for himself as a solid lead for other pictures. But for a comedy, I dare you to sit through Friends with Benefits and laugh as much as in a single 20-minute episode of Party Down (1/5th the length of this film), also starring Scott. The yuks come in abundance in short bursts. Sustained laughter could probably give somebody a heart attack, or so we should think, considering few are willing to attempt it anymore. The hilarity in Friends with Kids comes in the interspersed piercing of drama with levity. That isn’t comedy, regardless of how funny those bits of joy are (this film has one of the funniest one liners that perfectly exemplifies the new 21st century romantic chivalry: “Just let me fuck the shit out of you“.) The categorization is for sales purposes, so do with that as you will studio people, but for everyone buying tickets, or renting this on Netflix, it’s a clear category error.