A latecomer to the still-booming genre of comedies about 40-ish adolescents facing adult decisions, "Friends With Kids" tries to fit in by borrowing the cast of "Bridesmaids" and imitating the irreverent vibe of "Knocked Up." Those films, however, had heart and sensitivity, something sorely lacking in this crass, shallow cash-in.
It features four "Bridesmaids" actors playing married couples with children: Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm are Missy and Ben, whose once-hot sex life is now cooling, while Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd are the bickering Leslie and Alex. Writer-director Jennifer Westfeldt (the 2001 indie hit "Kissing Jessica Stein") casts herself as Julie, and Adam Scott (NBC's "Parks and Recreation") as Jason, two lifelong buddies who decide to platonically make a child and skip the whole strained-relationship thing.
These two are the film's biggest problems -- and they're the lead characters. Jason is an insensitive creep who treats sex like a cash transaction and uses repugnant language when discussing it, while Julie is such a doormat that she agrees to watch hard-core porn before doing the deed with her oldest friend. Scott, who helped liven up Will Ferrell's "Step Brothers," here looks completely dead-eyed, as if he secretly hates the person he's playing. It's impossible to see how he would attract even a punching bag like Julie (played by Westfeldt as a kind of Aniston-Zellweger combo plate).
Westfeldt saddles Hamm (her real-life partner) and Wiig with a crumbling-marriage subplot -- an odd use of their comedic talents -- and nearly forgets about O'Dowd and Rudolph, the movie's most likable couple. (Ed Burns and Megan Fox are also wasted in stock roles as the "other" guy and girl.) That means we're stuck mostly with the emotionally frozen Jason and the hopelessly passive Julie. When the film finally fades out, you may find yourself worrying about their child.
PLOT Two platonic friends agree to have a child. RATING R (language, sexuality, adult themes)
PLAYING AT Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE Shallow characters and crass language don't make for great comedy, especially one that's ostensibly about the joys of parenting.