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Friends with Kids (2011)

Lionsgate
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/17/2012

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/14/2012

We often accuse movies of having the same plot (I do this all the time), but more realistically, a lot of movies share the same themes. Yes, the stories are similar, but the real parallels lie within a combination of stereotypes and universal truths. So, is it a movie's fault if it simply presents things from real life or storypoints which may reflect reality? Well, that depends -- is the movie showing actual things which we see in daily life or is it just regurgitating cliches from other movies? In the case of Friends with Kids, it is certainly the latter.

The central core of Friends with Kids are best friends Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt). They've known each other for years, live in the same Manhattan building, and talk about everything together -- no matter how intimate. They are friends with two couples; Alex (Chris O'Dowd) & Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Ben (Jon Hamm) and Missy (Kristen Wiig). As the years pass, their friends have children and become very wrapped up in their kids. Jason and Julie decide that they will have a child together and raise it together, while still remaining just friends. Their peers think that they are crazy, but they go through with the plan. And at first, the plan works. Jason and Julie are able to share the child-rearing duties while maintaining their separate social lives. However, share something as personal as a child begins to create awkward feelings between them.

Friends with Kids comes from Writer/Director Jennifer Westfeldt who is known to indie film fans as the star of 2001's Kissing Jessica Stein, but is known to the rest of the world as Jon Hamm's long-time girlfriend. She co-wrote Kissing Jessica Stein and she's gone solo this time, making her directorial debut. In the "making of" featurette included on the Blu-ray Disc, Stein reveals that the genesis of the story came from the fact that many of her friends were having kids and she and Jon felt left out.

However, Westfeldt does not go on to elaborate on why she decided to include every possible romantic-comedy cliche in the script. This movie could easily be described as "When Harry Met Sally have a baby" and that wouldn't be an exaggeration or a joke. With Jason and Julie we get the stereotypical man and woman who are long-time friends who everyone thinks would make the perfect couple but they themselves don't see it. How many times have we seen this? And then a baby is thrown into the mix. This idea is somewhat novel, but the way in which its handled doesn't bring much originality with it. The third act is especially pedestrian and predictable as Jason and Julie must face the emotional turmoil is having a relationship which isn't really a relationship. We watch them deal with dating and jealousy and none of it feels original.

The movie falls into the trap of perpetuating all of the relationship and parenting cliches which Hollywood loves to thrust at us. First of all, we get my favorite chestnut -- married couples don't have sex. That one's a classic. Then we get the idea that all children are out of control and once you have kids, everything in your house becomes kid-centric. These movies always feature a dining table which is covered in Cheerios. Have you ever been to that house? I haven't. Of course, in the movies, children are always out of control and run the household. If Westfeldt wanted to do something new and original, then she should have focused on how these parents need to retake their own homes.

Director Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher, Orange County) served as one of the producers on the film and he was also on set to help Westfeldt with the directing. More specifically, Friends with Kids needed help with the editing. There are many scenes in the film which feature awkward cutaways to quick shots which clearly fill like an insert which was put in place to cover up some sort of problem. I was immediately reminded of the audio commentary of Clerks in which Kevin Smith talks about having to cut to Jay and Silent Bob in order to make scenes work. Of course, Smith was an amateur making a movie on weekends. Westfeldt was surrounded by professionals and still managed to make a shoddy-looking movie.

It probably seemed like a good idea to assemble half of the cast of Bridesmaids for a romantic-comedy. Adding Adam Scott to the mix was definitely a smart move, as he's great at playing the straight man and he also shows some good dramatic chops during a soliloquy. However this interesting cast is simply killed by the banality of the script. I wanted to like Friends with Kids, but I immediately realized that I'd seen it all before and the rest was just waiting for it to end.

Friends with Kids also includes Megan Fox in the cast, but the less said about that the better on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 36 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good, although they are never vibrant, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image is nicely detailed and we can make out textures on object. The street scenes show good depth. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.7 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a romantic comedy, we don't get a slew of dynamic effects. The street scenes do provide notable stereo and surround effects. The score sounds fine. I didn't note any substantial subwoofer effects. The dialogue always sounds perfect.

The Friends with Kids Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm and Cinematographer William Rexer. "Making Friends with Kids" (8 minutes) contains comments from Westfeldt, who talks about the inspiration for the movie, and the primary cast, who discuss what attracted them to the project and what it was like working on the movie. We get a nice amount of on-set footage here, some focusing on Westfeldt at work as director. "Ad-libs & Bloopers" (12 minutes) is a reel of gaffs which is split into two sections -- "Fun with Actors" and "Fun With Kids". "Scene 42: Anatomy of a Gag" (5 minutes) combines text from the script with footage from the movie to show how they parallel and what was ad-libbed. This can also be viewed with commentary from Westfeldt. "MJ Rocks at Video Games" (4 minutes) is a series of shots showing Megan Fox and Adam Scott playing video games, where Scott has no idea what he's doing. This can be viewed with commentary from Westfeldt and Hamm. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes and can be viewed with commentary. Some of these are completely new scenes, while others are longer versions of scenes from the movie. This does include a cut cameo by Samantha Bee.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long