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Cinema Signal: Off-track New York artificiality that's no friend to comedy. MOBILE: |
. "Friends With Kids" The Platonics

Yet another ensemble behavioral comedy whose primary purpose seems to be to keep New York actors working. Or, at least, working for the big screen in order to advance beyond their TV careers. And, so we have good talent in a small screen plotline that's so artificial it competes with plastic flowers.

Forty-twoish Julie Keller (quadruple-threat Jennifer Westfeldt who also wrote, directed and co-produced this potty-mouthed fare) and Jason Fryman (similarly aged Adam Scott, "See Girl Run") are buddies from college days and live in the same highrise in "the" city. To set us straight about the consistency of their relationship, an important part of their conversation is who they're sleeping with and how their latest was, along with repeated avowals about not being each other's "type."

Eventually, their married friends, with their kids have given the platonics a desire to conform before they're beyond the age. With hesitant, disjointed dialogue, each protecting their intentions from being misread by the other, they decide to make a baby together. As all good friends might, right?

A lot of thought went into the variegated couples whom they wish to emulate -- to avoid cookie-cutter sameness. Thus there are Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O'Dowd) who live in Brooklyn and are socially ungraceful and spar endlessy with words and their subtexts; and Missy (Kristen Wiig, "Bridesmaids") and Ben (Jon Hamm) who are a pebble away from being on the rocks. Adding to the mix are macho man Kurt (Edward Burns) for Julie to get it on with and Maryjane (Megan Fox) for Jason.

It's no secret what's going on here, hugely abetted by their sharing of responsibilities with their child. Julie, while in bed post-coitally with Kurt, experiences the revelation that it's not Kurt she's constantly thinking about. Over a dinner table that they dare not call a date, she fesses up her true feelings for him, to Jason. Her platonic "neighbor" and father of her child doesn't return the feeling, calling for Julie to readjust her life (SPOILER ALERT:) and putting off the eventual moment of mutual need and happiness to the very end because that's all the drama you're going to get here.

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(Click on the link below for this and other versions)
  • Audio Commentary with Westfeldt, Hamm and Rexer
  • Making Friends with Kids
  • Fun with actors and dids (Ad-libs & Bloopers)
  • MJ Rocks at Video Games
  • Scene 42: Anatomy of a gag with optional commentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Pubescent writer Westfeldt mistakes the exposure of the most intimate thoughts a person might have -- emotions, inferiority, fears, prejudices, and lots of body parts -- for drama. But, it's a huge miscalculation. Try creating audience admiration for your characters.

    MORE SPOILER -- Do not read further if you haven't seen this movie
    The scene in which the inevitable confession of mutual love comes, held out so long by an actress whose gift for writing isn't established here, is not only badly written and acted, it reveals the distorted construct from the git go. The dialogue is putrid, the expressions are feeble, and the possibility of the joy Westfeldt was going for is lost like a willow branch in the Los Angeles River.

    No scene shows better the limitations of these TV actors and an actress with writing and directing on her mind than when Jason returns a second time to Julie's apartment to make his case of conversion like a victim of a rubout desperately trying to dissuade the hitman from pulling the trigger. He'll say anything, and nothing he's saying contains a shred of honesty.

    We read Jason's desperation with our own scepticism -- we know that if Julie accepts him back, he's not going to give up his ingrained ways. Who is he kidding? Unfortunately it's Julie, who can act the sceptic, the smart girl, for just so long. It's a moment in a poor script but her writer let her down. She should have sent Jason off again, to just think about it -- not give him a role in the hay which is all the superficial ass wanted in the first place. It plays this way because Westfeldt never did get that the whole concept was phony. So much for acting, writing, directing and co-producing. The backers should have known better.

    Which is not to say Westfeldt, Jon Hamm's real-life wife, isn't a beauty. But god, girl, just act. Being an Orson Wells is a looooong way off.

    Click for full list of movie reviews

                                          ~~  Jules Brenner  

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    Comments from readers:
    I've seen the movie and agree with the review Site rating: 8 Too much Westfeldt and Adam. Would have liked the Bridemaids ensemble to shine more. Showcased Julie character at the expense of talented cast.
                                                               ~~ Stephanie 

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    Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt as Jason & Julie
    A relationship of dubious honesty and little appeal.

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