REVIEW: Friends With Kids (Lionsgate)

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WARNING: Despite the marketing campaign, the plethora of glowing comparison reviews from Heat, Now and other mono-syllabic monikered trash that litter your local Sainsbury’s magazine isle and, most importantly, despite sharing four key cast members…THIS…ISN’T…BRIDESMAIDS. It’s not even close…for a start it doesn’t contain any jokes. Or any romance. It’s a romantic comedy that forgets the two vital ingredients. Like trying to make an omelette without breaking any eggs….on a barbecue.

Jennifer Westfeldt writes, directs and woefully miscasts herself as Julie, a Manhattan-residing single 30-something who forms part of a close knit circle that includes sex-obsessed couple Missy (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Jon Hamm), family-assembling Alex (Chris O’Dowd) and Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and fellow singleton Jason (Adam Scott). Jason and Julie are the odd-couple of the group, unable to find what they annoyingly insist on calling “their person” they become further ostracised when kids gate-crash the scene and change the relationships that surround them.

So, what do two people out of sync with their contemporaries’ new lives decide to do? That’s right, like two children desperate to sit at the adult table but not really ready for all that entails, they decide to have a kiddie together without the complications of love and romance. Sounds like nothing could go wrong, right? Wrong. Rather predictably, as Julie and Jason selfishly search for their soulmates post-parenthood (he with Megan Fox, playing a less realistic character than when she’s the focus of Michael Bay’s leering camera whilst being chased by giant robots, and she with Edward Burns who, in the strange alternative reality of Westfeldt’s mind, constitutes the perfect man) their ideal family unit slowly unravels.

You can spot the resolution from the outset and whilst predictability isn’t necessarily an issue in storytelling, here the tedious slog getting there, certainly is. What could have been an intelligent indie take on ‘Friends’ layered with off the wall charm and sparky dialogue in Westfeldt’s hands is messy, poorly paced and extremely dull. The actors manfully deliver fast paced “knowing” chatter that tries to establish itself as rom-com Tarantino yet ultimately it only serves to paper over the cracks of a script that just isn’t funny.

The problem begins with the leads. Westfeldt, despite glowing notices for her titular turn in ‘Kissing Jessica Stein’, just isn’t top-billing material, creating a character who screams needy and desperate when the story cries out for independent and feisty. No wonder Scott’s Jason continually belittles her with sexual rebuffs and Burns’ Kurt hesitates to fully commit. Meanwhile Adam Scott, a Primark Tom Cruise in stature and manner, grates with every dated rat-pack fixated utterance of “doll” and fails to convince as a womanising beer marketer (a job so stereotypically manly it’s surprising he doesn’t role play as a pillaging Viking on Sundays) who can still bed Megan Fox despite being caught covered in baby shit.

The rest of the ensemble (those four leads from Bridesmaids) are, apart from one standout drunken rant from Jon Hamm, horrendously underused especially Kristen Wiig whose immaculate comic timing is never tested and whose actual contribution to proceedings (except for some crying) is hard to recall once the movie is over. Elsewhere, the normally dependable Chris O’Dowd is lumbered with a witless role and inexplicably decides on an American-Irish accent that is best described as “insufferable”. Furthermore, there are several  under written peripheral characters including Jason’s parents (who disapprove of his “out of wedlock” child but seem fine with him dating a well-endowed dancer at least 15 years his junior) who don’t get fleshed out to explain their own prejudices and the effects on their clearly dysfunctional son.

Ultimately, in these days of austerity, we are being asked to care about characters so self-centred that they loudly bitch about children in overpriced eateries, whose lives revolve around dinner parties and ski breaks and whose idea of an ideal relationship is boiled down to boob size. These poorly rendered sketches of humanity don’t deserve your respect, your time or your money – go lavish it on real friends instead

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