Friends with Kids Blu-ray Review
Generation X has been slowly evolving the romantic comedy for over a decade now. Teen angst films from the ‘80s like PRETTY IN PINK and SAY ANYTHING still hold up as classics, along with the moody, quick witted and confused by sex character laden “rom-coms” from the ‘90s like REALITY BITES and AS GOOD AS IT GETS. But ever since the millennium, the formula for the perfect date movie has veered drastically toward one very specific element . . . the truth.
Jason Fryman (Adam Scott, OUR IDIOT BROTHER) and Julie Keller (Jennifer Westfeldt, KISSING JESSICA STEIN) are the last two single components in their circle of friends. As each of the two couples in the group start to have children, the unattractive changes in their personalities and lifestyles are enough to keep Jason and Julie as active participants in the dating pool. However, knowing that each does eventually want children, and unable to think of a superior parental partner than their life-long friend, the progressive duo decide to have a baby without any of the emotional commitments that they blame for ruining their friends’ lives.
Not only does FRIENDS WITH KIDS continue down the passage of comedy righteousness, it gets down right medieval on your parenting asses. No punches are pulled in this Jennifer Westfeldt written, produced, directed and starred-in comedy about the unrelenting wave of change that befalls a New York block of friends as the baby dominos start to fall. Yes, as most great topical comedies, you must be familiar with this situation to experience the full effect, but the writing and acting is so strong that the film should entertain even the outskirts of its target audience. At times the script might even be honest to a fault, bordering on more of a heightened reality where everyone says exactly what’s on their minds no matter the consequence, but in film of course, it’s much funnier to see those thoughts performed on screen than simply floating around in the character’s head, à la Larry David or Woody Allen.
Executing Westfeldt’s skillfully crafted story is a cast that may be familiar at first glance but will undoubtedly add to the abundant traffic on IMDB.com. Adam Scott is a prime example. You know you’ve seen the face on more than one occasion but have no idea of the name or what roles he’s played. FRIENDS WITH KIDS finally gives Scott the chance to show he’s multitudes more than just a bit-part actor. He has a great delivery for comedy and drama and is able to exude movie star style bravado without surrendering a terrible amount of relatability.
SNL alumni Kristen Wiig (Missy) and Maya Rudolph (Leslie) add some professional comedy chops to the cast, but it’s the duo’s costar in BRIDESMAIDES, Chris O’Dowd, that’s responsible for inducing the most “ha-ha” synapses to fire in the brain. O’Dowd plays Alex, Leslie’s surrendered-to-life husband who lives vicariously through Jason and approves of the pure logic of Jason and Julie’s plan. Most of O’Dowd’s talent is in his hilariously stoic facial expressions and his dead-pan line deliveries which can sometimes be reminisced to that of Seth Rogan.
Wearing four different hats on a movie set simultaneously must be powerful, stressful and even awkward at times. Westfeldt must have taken lessons directly from Woody Allen himself as she not only gives a pitch-perfect performance but also directed her story flawlessly, allocating ample screen time to well-thought-out characters and maintaining a steady flow to subject matter that can sometimes drag down comedic overtures. As a producer she made glorious use of the limited budget for this film and included postcard views of the seasonal changes in New York that act as an integral parallel to the changes in lifestyle made by the characters throughout their story arcs. By the end of the film, you’ll find the destination FRIENDS WITH KIDS takes you to be highly predictable, but just like a trip in a NYC taxi, the road getting there is anything but.
Video: 1080p transfer, 1.78:1 aspect ratio: For a low budget or blockbuster film, the video quality on this disc is excellent. Fine detail can be seen in the actors face without stripping it entirely of grain and jumping over to soap opera mode. The colors are mostly warm which match the fall seasonal background used in most of the film.
Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1: Thankfully there are no Michael Bay scrap pile robots destroying the city in this film so the only aspect the audio had to excel in was the dialogue, which it did superbly.
Commentary with Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm and William Rexer: This commentary track is truly like watching the film with the people who made it. The only problem is most of what they discuss would only be interesting to said people. Westfeldt, Hamm and Rexer talk about every minutia of set planning, to wardrobe, to inside joke they can possibly cram in. There are definitely interesting facts in there, but it not worth watching the entire film over again to filter them out.
Making Friends with Kids (HD, 8 min): Cast & crew interviews with special focus on Westfeldt’s many different roles in creating this film and getting it distributed.
Fun with Actors and Kids (HD, 12 min): Ad libs and bloopers from the film in two separate reels, one with the grown-ups and the other with the kids. Some of the adult ad libs are funny but it’s the kids’ reel that’s really worth the watch, not just for what they say but to experience the extreme difficulty actors have working with children.
MJ Rocks at Video Games with Optional Commentary (HD, 4 min): The uncut footage of Megan Fox and Adam Scott playing video games in a scene where Fox’s character tries to teach Scott’s how to play “Gears of War.” This is mildly entertaining, not for the content but to view just how much time is spent on a scene when only an extremely small percentage will be used in the final cut.
Scene 42: Anatomy of a Gag with Optional Commentary (HD, 5 min): This is a detailed breakdown of the scene where Jason and Julie reveal their plan to have a child to their friends Leslie and Alex. This is worth a watch just for O’Dowd and Rudolph but the commentary is also interesting as Westfeldt and Hamm explain why the scene was shot in the way it was and how the comedy evolved as they shot more and more takes.
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (HD, 8 min): Eight deleted scenes from the film that were all deleted for good reason.