|Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt from Friends with Kids. (SUPPLIED)
At the beginning of the romantic comedy Friends With Kids, the filmmakers propose that modern couples can only choose two among love, happiness and kids. By "love" they mean sex as well as affection.
At the end, the proposal is different. There may be a way to have all three categories satisfied. That predictable premise, unnecessary profanity and a slow pace to writer-director-actress Jennifer Westfeldt's movie doomed Friends With Kids at the box office. It earned just $7.3 million in North America, according to Box Office Mojo.
That is sad for a flick that overlaps with the mega-hit Bridesmaids. On screen, the two share Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd and Jon Hamm (of Mad Men fame). Hamm, of course, is also Westfeldt's romantic partner and co-produced Friends With Kids, helping attract their real friends to bolster the cast, including Adam Scott, Edward Burns and Megan Fox.
But Friends With Kids is not as much fun as Bridesmaids. Nor as outrageous. It is the story of two lifelong, platonic pals (Scott and Westfeldt) who decide to have a child -- because all their friends already have -- but remain independent players in the dating game, with stalwart Burns and sexpot Fox involved.
Even if they ignored this movie in theatres, adult audiences might now gravitate to Friends With Kids at home. It is new this week to separate DVD and Blu-ray releases, along with digital download.
The Blu-ray does a good job of presenting the movie, along with a commentary, deleted scenes and a strong making-of documentary. That doc shows Westfeldt and Hamm together, explaining their motivations. "Jon and I have really been watching our closest friends all have children in the past four or five years," says Westfeldt, "and we don't have children."
Hamm interjects: "... that we know of ..."
Westfeldt continues: "... that we know of, and we just observed (what it felt like) to be out of sync with our peer group."
Says Hamm: "I thought it was a story that hadn't been really told. And I thought this was something we could do together and we could get a lot of our friends involved with it. And we could make something that was smarter than your average bear."
Having friends with kids myself, the notion of what to show them comes up. Not just in obvious recommendations for toddlers, such as Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine and Dora the Explorer. While I would NOT let them see Friends With Kids -- it is friendly to kids, not kid-friendly -- two titles from 2012 are absolute essentials:
The Muppets: The Wocka Wocka Value Pack: This combo pack gives you the DVD, Blu-ray, digital copy and soundtrack of the glorious musical dreamed up by Jason Segel. As one of the best Muppet movies ever, the Oscar-winning musical was released for home viewing in March and remains No. 1 among family titles. "It can't ever be a bad idea to bring goodness back in the world," Whoopi Goldberg says of reviving The Muppets on the big screen. The extras as great, including the doc, Scratching the Surface: A Hasty Examination of the Making of The Muppets.
The Secret World of Arrietty: This enchanting Japanese anime comes from famed Studio Ghibli. It debuted in May in a combo pack combining DVD with Blu-ray. Extras are limited, even on Blu-ray. Nevertheless, Hiromasa Yonebavshi's beautiful animation offers the movie in the original Japanese or in an excellent English-language adaptation. Inspired by Mary Norton's 1952 English novel, The Borrowers, the movie tells the inspirational story of a parallel universe of tiny people who secretly live among us and "borrow" essentials.