Friends with Kids (Roadside Attractions, R)

film friends-kids smWill you ever feel clean again after being covered in baby poo?

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Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott) have it all figured out. After years of watching their buddies—live-in lovers Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O’Dowd), and married couple Missy (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Jon Hamm)—struggle to keep the romance alive while juggling young kids and domestic duties, they decide to skip the passion and go straight for parenthood.

Jason and Julie both want kids, but since neither has a found a suitable significant other, they opt to share one amorous night and care for the resulting child together, as friends. And their arrangement works, until each of them finds the love they were looking for elsewhere.

Friends with Kids isn’t a romantic comedy so much as it is a relationship dramedy that poses some age-old questions. Can men and women be friends and nothing more? Is it possible to have the same cool life post-parenthood as you did pre-parenthood? Do kids always ruin the romance between couples? Will you ever feel clean again after being covered in baby poo? The answers may be all over the map, but lucky for writer-director-star Westfeldt, that’s exactly the way they should be.

The besties get into the co-parenting swing of things pretty easily, much to the surprise of their struggling couple friends. When they each begin falling for other people, Jason with Mary Jane (Megan Fox) and Julie with Kurt (Edward Burns), the strain that shows isn’t just about two people who have less time for parental backups; it’s also about two friends who can feel their importance in the other’s life slipping away.

Having said all that, the ideas in Friends with Kids are generally more interesting than the presentation of those ideas. It’s clear that Westfeldt was trying to hit on the perfect combo of raunchy comedy and realistic, emotional storytelling that made last year’s Bridesmaids such a hit. The problem is that when the characters talk about penis size, masturbation, or loose vaginas, it feels forced every time, as do the reactions of the other characters. No one wants to talk about their loose vagina while a roomful of people pretend to be cool with hearing about it.

Jason is an odd, not-quite-believable character who Scott still makes us like. We’re told he’s a bit of a jerk with women, but that’s not the kind of guy who can honestly form a deep, decades-long friendship with one. Toward the end of the movie, Jason tells Ben that he never considered going further with Julie because, “There’s too much familiarity. She’s like one of my limbs.” After a 20-year friendship, that makes sense, but not while he’s a horny college student and she’s a good-looking coed.

For her part, Westfeldt is a fine foil to Scott and a nice counterpoint to Rudolph’s exasperated mom and Wiig’s emotional this-isn’t-what-I-signed-up-for mom. She’s sort of a grown-up version of the manic pixie dream girl with a steady job and a rent-controlled apartment. Julie can talk dirty with the best of them, and is up for anything—as long as she can find a sitter.

After all the realistic pondering about love, parenting, and friendship, Friends with Kids takes an unfortunate turn toward romantic-comedy fairytale at the end. It might make you wish Westfeldt had stuck to her guns a bit more, but it won’t make you sorry you took this trip with her. | Adrienne Jones

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