Is “Friends With Kids” the Next “Bridesmaids”?
Bridesmaids was the best and the worst thing to happen to Friends With Kids. Writer-director-star Jennifer Westfeldt’s indie rom-com shares four primary cast members with last summer’s big-grossing smash: Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd. That gave the small-scale movie a huge publicity boost and led to a semi-wide opening for what would’ve otherwise probably been a slow arthouse rollout. It also raised expectations both financial and comedic, and that could lead to disappointment.
Put simply, if you’re looking for Bridesmaids-style belly laughs, you’re bound to be let down. Despite some salty dialogue and a few poop-related gags, Friends delivers more head-nodding chuckles of recognition than I’m-gonna-pee-myself hysteria. But if you take it on its own terms, it’s a satisfying and surprisingly mature dramedy.
Westfeldt and Parks and Recreation‘s droll Adam Scott are the movie’s real stars, as a pair of platonic Manhattan pals who decide to have a baby together without the messiness of a relationship, muchless marriage. That earns equal parts skepticism and jealousy from their unhappily married friends played by Hamm (Westfeldt’s real-life significant other) and Wiig as well as a a contentious but compatible couple played by the always-entertaining Rudolph and the deeply endearing O’Dowd.
Complications and high jinks ensue when Westfeldt and Scott enter new relationships, her with an impossibly perfect divorced dad (Edward Burns) and him with an impossibly flexible Broadway dancer (Megan Fox, holding her own with a top-notch ensemble). Although the resolution is somewhat predictable, the path is realistically messy, and the cast keeps it feeling fresh. Neither Westfeldt nor Scott are traditional romantic leads, and the script smartly acknowledges their physical shortcomings. Meanwhile, Hamm continues to play against his matinee-idol looks as a hard-drinking prick not named Don Draper, and Wiig shows dramatic range as his deeply dissatisfied wife (this bodes well for her post-SNL career, which includes a serious role opposite Robert De Niro in director Sean Penn’s The Comedian).
Ultimately, Friends With Kids seems like nothing more nor less than the promising pilot for a sophisticated sitcom (and I don’t mean that pejoratively–I love sitcoms). But it won’t be a blockbuster or a trailblazer like Bridesmaids because neither its comedy nor its appeal is as broad. It’ll always be the bridesmaid, never the bride.
Which did you like more: Friends with Kids or Bridesmaids? Speak now or forever hold your peace!