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Originally published Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 3:01 PM

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Movie review

'Friends with Kids': a funny, sweet and salty romantic comedy

Jennifer Westfeldt's "Friends with Kids" is an excellent romantic comedy, says Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald. With a cast featuring "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm as well as "Bridesmaids" cast members Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig, the film is a funny, warmhearted, grown-up love story that also deals with what happens to couples after they have kids. The movie is playing at several theaters in the Seattle area.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3.5 stars

'Friends with Kids,' with Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, Megan Fox, Edward Burns. Written and directed by Westfeldt. 108 minutes. Rated R for sexual content and language. Several theaters.

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MOVIE REVIEW 3.5 stars

Jennifer Westfeldt's "Friends with Kids" works because it remembers the primary rule of romantic comedy: We need to want the movie's central couple to be together. (I could make a long list of recent rom-coms that forgot this rule, but then I'd get all depressed and have to go watch "When Harry Met Sally" again.)

Westfeldt, speaking in charming little flurries of words that recall the great screwball comediennes, plays Julie, a contemporary Manhattanite who decides to have a child with her longtime best friend, Jason (Adam Scott).

They love each other platonically, but aren't attracted to each other, so this will be the perfect way to create a family without worrying about the loss of romance — right? Bonus points if you guessed, just from reading that sentence, that one of the J's eventually will say to the other, "I'm so in love with you that I don't know what to do."

Co-starring many members of the jolly "Bridesmaids" crew, "Friends with Kids" is more than a Julie-and-Jason love story: It's also a witty examination of what can happen to a group of friends in their 30s when kids come along and change the mix. In a prologue scene, Jason and Julie gather with their friends, couples Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O'Dowd) and Missy (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Jon Hamm), and learn that Leslie and Alex are expecting their first child.

"Nothing's going to change," the friends cheerfully agree.

Fast-forward four years later — and everything has changed, except Julie and Jason, who look at their frazzled buddies and think, there must be a better way. Fast- forward another year, to adorable baby Joe, and to the J's learning that what seems uncomplicated often, ultimately, isn't.

At its warm heart, "Friends with Kids" is a funny, grown-up love story (very grown-up; the language in the final scene will raise some eyebrows) about people we enjoy hanging out with, and who seem like people we already know. The details feel real, if occasionally a bit extreme. (Do new parents really email pictures of their kids' toilet adventures to their friends? Maybe I've missed something. Or maybe my friends are unusually discreet.)

Rudolph and O'Dowd are a killer duo: She, shooting a look at her husband as if sending a mental, lengthy to-do list, is funny even in silence; he, playing a cheerfully low-key fellow who's happy with his lot, seems her perfect match. He pleasantly yells "I did everything you asked!" before she even finishes asking, and companionably dries his just-washed hands on her sweater (which she's wearing). Hamm and Wiig, who have a less comic subplot, show off their dramatic acting chops (particularly in a New-Year's-Eve-Dinner-from-Hell scene), and Ed Burns and Megan Fox acquit themselves well as love interests for Julie and Jason — at least, for now.

But it's the ever-likable Westfeldt and Scott who carry the movie, from its opening scenes as they have a phone conversation in their respective beds (just like Harry and Sally!), relaxing and smiling as they talk, as if the other's voice is a home. Watch Westfeldt's face as Scott divides up Chinese food for them, or tells Julie that he's just met a girl, and wonder why this woman isn't a bigger star. Watch "Friends with Kids" and wonder why good romantic comedies don't come around very often; this one, both sweet and salty, feels just right.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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