Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

TORONTO REVIEW | "Friends With Kids" is a Successful Sitcom

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire September 13, 2011 at 6:34AM

Progressive families have been fertile ground for American sitcoms like "Will & Grace" and "Modern Family." That Jennifer Westfeldt's "Friends with Kids" successfully translates the appeal into feature-length format doesn't exactly make it a great movie, but it's a genuinely entertaining look at young people contemplating the next phases of their lives. The film isn't particularly memorable or enlightening, and it lacks a consistent point of view about the family dynamic at its core, but it also manages to be reasonably satisfying precisely because Westfeldt never tries to overextend herself.
0

Progressive families have been fertile ground for American sitcoms like "Will & Grace" and "Modern Family." That Jennifer Westfeldt's "Friends with Kids" successfully translates the appeal into feature-length format doesn't exactly make it a great movie, but it's a genuinely entertaining look at young people contemplating the next phases of their lives. The film isn't particularly memorable or enlightening, and it lacks a consistent point of view about the family dynamic at its core, but it also manages to be reasonably satisfying precisely because Westfeldt never tries to overextend herself.

The writer-director co-stars as Julie, a chatty bachelorette whose only unmarried friend is smooth-talking womanizer Jason (Adam Scott). Their social lives find them in close contact with two seemingly stable couples, the uber-horny Ben and Missy (Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig) as well as the easygoing Leslie and Alex (Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd). When both couples announce they're expecting, Julie and Jason immediately assume their pals are doomed.

"Nothing's going to change," the couples insist; flash forward to four years later. Having witnessed their pals' downward spiral into frustrated domesticity, Julie and Jason devise a solution that satisfies their shared desire to raise a child without falling into the same trap: They agree to have a baby, but not to become a couple.

"This is the worst idea I've ever heard," Ben admits. However, initially it seems they've cracked the code. Their child, who moves from infant to a toddler over the course of a few scenes, benefits from two households and parents willing to split the burden without sacrificing their respective dating lives. Over time, however, the trick shows its seams. Eventually, the characters feel they must either move in together or end their friendship. It's a neat hook that's commercial to a fault, but it's rescued by a solid set of performances.

Overall, "Friends with Kids" maintains a superficial appeal on par with the kind of amiable romantic comedies that Ed Burns churns out in his sleep. Appropriately, Burns surfaces in the cast as the older man that Julie begins dating just as Jason falls into a steamy affair with a luscious dancer (Megan Fox). Guilt and jealously bubbles to the surface in a fairly obvious fashion, but the middle section contains a perceptive look at varying approaches to family life before it heads toward the supremely predictable conclusion.

"The set-up is flawed," Jason says about conventional family life, although he's not necessarily sure he knows to fix it. Erring on the side of caution, "Friends with Kids" backs down from its progressive stance and embraces traditionalist values. That's a shame, because Westfeldt comes close to upending expectations and pushing the romantic comedy in a fresh direction. But just when she heads into territory worthy of exploration, she pulls a U-turn back to the same old routine.

criticWIRE grade: B

HOW WILL IT PLAY? With its cast of familiar faces and commercial genre, "Friends with Kids" is destined for a sizable release and solid box office reception, despite mixed critical reception.

This article is related to: Reviews, Friends With Kids






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More