** (out of four)
Considering the overlap in the casting department (Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd), “Friends with Kids” seems like a cousin of “Bridesmaids.” Unfortunately, “Friends” merely represents a relative who thinks she’s a lot funnier and more clever than she really is.
In this New York-set romantic comedy, platonic friends Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (writer-director Jennifer Westfeldt, “Kissing Jessica Stein”) don’t feel that way about each other. So it’s a totally sensible strategy when they impulsively decide, in light of their once-happy married friends’ (Hamm and Wiig, Rudolph and O’Dowd) recent kid-induced misery, to have a child together. Thus, Jason and Julie can satisfy their goal of having a child in their late 30s without letting the kid sour a romantic relationship. Brilliant, ay?
Please. “Friends” occasionally talks the raunchy, sexually enlightened talk, but walking the walk is another story. Westfeldt offers a few good lines and a great yelling match between Jason and Ben (Hamm, Westfeldt’s long-time boyfriend) but stacks the deck with the usual romantic diversions. That includes a hot young thing who doesn’t want kids (Megan Fox) and a perfect guy who may not be right (Edward Burns). Meanwhile, the filmmaker demonstrates only a passing interest in exploring the challenges of maintaining love and intimacy in the wake of a screaming, pooping little human.
Everyone knows having kids is hard and that time for couple-y stuff slows down, with an increased need for communication and partnership. Let’s see a movie about intelligent people getting their hands dirty, not just immature folks trotting toward conclusions an unimaginative writer deems inevitable.
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