Best Laid Plans, by Kyle Anderson
Often, and especially in comedies, the central conceit of the movie is such that before even seeing more than the trailer you think, “Well, that’s not a very good plan.” This was the case with the new romantic comedy, Friends with Kids, which boasts a very good cast but a very contrived plot that would likely only happen in movies. Should platonic friends try to have a kid just so they have one before they’ve found the love of their life? No. I could tell you that right now and I didn’t need 107 minutes and a scene of someone cleaning up baby diarrhea to answer it. Writer/Director/Star Jennifer Westfeldt starts with a decent theme, what it’s like for people over 40 who want a family but haven’t yet found “the one,” and has a stellar cast but can’t seem to shake the formulaic third act we see coming from the opening credits.
Westfeldt and Adam Scott play Julie and Jason, two best friends in New York who aren’t attracted to each other at all, they promise, who have successful careers, but haven’t been able to find the right person with whom to settle down. At the beginning of the film, they go to a fancy restaurant to meet their friends, married couple Leslie and Alex (Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd) and hot-and-heavy dating couple Missy and Ben (Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm). Leslie and Alex announce that they’re expecting their first child, but they swear they’ll be cool and won’t let it change them in the slightest. Cut to: four years later and Leslie and Alex have two children and Missy and Ben have one, none of them seem happy. Julie and Jason are still single and still haven’t found the one. They deduce that it’s the marriage stuff that gets in the way of the parenting, and vice versa, and if they were simply to have a child, they could then focus on finding a suitable mate. And hey, what the hell, let’s just do it ourselves.
So, after a night of alcohol-fueled fornicating, something that must just enrage the countless couples who try for months and years to have kids, Julie’s pregnant. It then cuts immediately to Julie giving birth and she and Jason begin the task of raising the child while attempting to date. It works out pretty well at first, but then Jason meets hot young dancer Mary Jane (Megan Fox) and Julie meets handsome, charming single father Kurt (Edward Burns). They also don’t take into account how their arrangement will affect their friends, who feel like they’re cheating the system in some way. But maybe, Julie and Jason really have found the person they’ve been looking for all along… Snores and gags aplenty.
First, it must be stated that the cast are all really good actors and do pretty well. Even Megan Fox does pretty well for herself in what is little more than the hot girl role. About half of them were in Bridesmaids which was a huge monster hit so I assume the thinking is that it’ll draw the same audience. And on the outside, it rather seems like it is the same – thirty-something woman trying to find love while her friends all seem to have it, etc etc. The problem here is that those good actors all that things to do in Bridesmaids but have nothing approaching that level characterization here. They might have a decent speech or a funny joke, but overall they’re simply supporting characters. Rudolph and O’Dowd actually have scenes by themselves without Westfeldt and Scott, which is a real rarity here. Adam Scott, who I generally like quite a bit, goes back and forth between being snarky and sincere and can’t really pull off the latter. When he has his emotional scene at the end of the movie, it’s like he’s doing his best to channel Ben Affleck in Chasing Amy.
Unfortunately, I think the real problem here lies with Westfeldt. She clearly wrote the script for herself to star in, as she had for 2001’s Kissing Jessica Stein, and it seems from the credits she had a hard time getting this one made. Hamm, who has been in a relationship with Westfeldt for a number of years in real life, is credited as executive producer and I assume his name is what helped this find the screen. To say nothing of the direction, which is very straightforward, but for a movie with nothing but talking, it does its job okay, the biggest glaring issue is with the script. The dialogue is very pseudo intellectual and not particularly believable and sounds like it belongs in an off-Broadway play rather than on a screen. The cast seems trapped by the language. You have a group of really excellent actors and, moreover, excellent improvisers who could easily find the funniest way to get the same point across, but can’t because they’re delivering the auteur’s lines which is made even more glaring by the few instances where they are allowed to play around a bit. It’s also trying too hard to sound edgy. Bridesmaids was a very foulmouthed film, but could pull it off; this movie is foulmouthed but can’t. Westfeldt fills the script with a huge amount of blue language and sexual references probably to make it seem edgier. But nobody talks to each other that way, or at least these people probably wouldn’t talk to each other that way.
This movie is entirely a showcase for Jennifer Westfeldt and unfortunately it doesn’t showcase her very well. It had a lot going for it in the cast department, but the script isn’t near strong enough for them to make good use of it. I wouldn’t say this is a BAD movie, but it certainly is a disappointing one.