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Friends I wouldn't be keeping, no Kid-ding!,
This review is from: Friends With Kids [DVD] (DVD)
'Bridesmaids' was one of the more horrible offerings of it respective year, a crazily unfunny, excruciating, min-numbing exercise in desperation humour, which in the end actually forgot the humour, despite a few good lines offered from Chris O'Dowd an no one else, but it won't be the first time the beer and curry crowd got a thing wrong in such a fell sweep. And that's one of the many big problems afflicting this ill-conceived knock-about spinning top of bratty strops, shrieking harpies and backward musings on what it apparently means to have and keep a relationship going once you have kids. Which would be a good idea, but the film refuses to explore that at all, and just presents us with three couplings, two marriages that don't strike particularly convincing and only turn into snipes and snarls whenever the so-called script puts them on screen, whereas most of the time we're spent with the two singletons that decide on the killer idea to have a baby, and just not worry about getting together, just bring it up between them, but not as a unit. What a shining nugget of wisdom for a supposedly intelligent pair of adults to make, as that's so what society is based on. And, sadly, the dread non-humour and scatterbrain yelling of 'Bridesmaids' seems to be this film's nearest companion, and for me that turns this tasteless candyfluff into scrap, and that is truly sad.
Sad because it didn't need to be this way, after all the writer-director (and star) Jennifer Westfeldt made the charming, funny and memorable Woody Allen-esque 'Kissing Jessica Stein' just over ten years ago, but none of that film's witty, acerbic, earthy,winsome and somehow endearingly real and expertly characterised players are present here, and that's criminal. It's bad enough she's made her own character a grating, whining and simpering neurotic of the first disorder, but she has three decent and usually lovable and hot leading men in this, yet none of them come across as shining, and I'm still waiting for both Adam Scott and Jon Hamm to actually star in a film I can really like. I'm still waiting. Kristen Wiig, while funny in the underrated Ricky Gervais supernatural comedy 'Ghost Town' does not seem to deserve any of the accolades presently heaped on here for what she's achieved so far, ditto Maya Rudolph, who only seems to come across well in intriguing road-movie 'Away We Go' with John Kraskinski. Most of the blame, though, has to lie at Westfedlt's door. Whether woman are better observers than men, I don't know, but she's not doing her sex any favours if this is the kind of thing getting green-lit for cinematic display, and it makes me mad when other women, like the lady who shot the winsome and grossly ignored 2003 rom-com/drama 'Carolina' with Julia Stiles, and Jocelyn Moorhouse get far better results to basically zero response.
I got this on the notion the strong male star cast (rare for rom-coms, the males are usually hideous, shallow, chest-shaving, strutting barbies of a production-line, just like in action, and often horror films) would compliment the women better, and it would somewhow echo those earlier wonderful stabs of twentysomething plus angst and the pitfalls and highs of married life and relationships that blazed the trail. Yet it couldn't be further away in quality, focus or charm than Whit Stillman's superb 90s trilogy, Edward Burns's 'She's The One' (and having the man himself guest in this, mostly looking uncomfortable, showing it up as horribly wanting), 'Tadpole', 'Miami Rhapsody', 'The Night We Never Met', 'Next Stop Wonderland', 'Smart People' and Lisa Cholodenko's double five star wattage knowing relationship dramas of 'Laurel Canyon' and 'The Kids Are All Right' and even the rather underwhelming 'Lovely & Amazing', but above all, it's also crazily as far from 'Kissing Jessica Stein' as it could be. And maybe she could have done with the other girl who co-wrote that film with her.
There's so much to dismay and disappoint, not least the clumsily mishandled treatment of overlapping dialogue which Robert Altman excelled at that just turns into repetitive and aimless yelling and chiming over one another pointlessly here. Worse, the likelihood of the charmless observation that all men can't seem to want to control or even be around their kids, or know what to do with them. Really? When I'm out, I see lone fathers out with them all the time? Or that raising a kid purposely "not as a couple to avoid kid-making problems"-really?!-is the perfect solution to the easiest stress-free life for all concerned. And don't even start me on the barrel-scraping verbal exchange between Adam Scott (by now an idiot of grand proportions, well done movie) and Westfeldt, who of course burped it. Or perhaps masticated it from Kristen Wiig, who used it in a certain film earlier. Even the extras grate like a walnut whip on sensitive teeth-where everything from Ed Burns feeling he has to call these 'characters' well rounded (try all the others I've named, mate, and more I haven't) from Adam Scott calling it "way better than Woody Allen".(notice how the comparison keeps coming up), but here he's sadly off for the worst reason, and that is that this film happily stands up the same aisle as the horror confection of 'Bridesmaids', itself a pitiful 'The Hangover' for femmes, with sub-'Animal House' chuckles (if you can), with not even the black humour of 'Stag Night'.
With 'Friends With Kids', who needs singledom-and more on track with the subject matter of the title actually being explored properly. That's right, we all do? Hell, even shows like 'Desperate Housewives' even with their heightened reality for dramatic purposes do a better job at rolling out the realities of evolving marriages and growing kids over time. See this, and 'Modern Family' or 'Parenthood' (both 1989 films and the US TV series its based on), and any of the other far better movies made out there portraying this life. Jennifer, dear Friend, you must be Kidding!