Love is unpredictable, messy, sometimes violent and occasionally soppy.
It creeps up on some people unannounced, blossoming unexpectedly from lifelong friendship; for others, it hits them like a sledgehammer to the solar plexus.
In the movies, love usually plays by clearly defined rules, which ensure the two characters who are destined for each other from the opening frames will indeed end up in each other’s arms by the closing credits, regardless of the myriad obstacles that litter the road to happiness.
It’s a fantasy we readily accept.
Friends With Kids doesn’t deviate from that tried and tested formula, but does have a great deal of fun trying to convince us that it intends to break hearts, not warm them.
Writer-director Jennifer Westfeldt, who also takes a lead role, is generous with her one-liners, sharing the choice dialogue among a terrific ensemble cast as she entwines the fates of six thirty-somethings, who live and work in Manhattan, over the course of six years.
Advertising executive Jason (Adam Scott) has known best friend Julie (Westfeldt) since college, but there has never been a romantic spark between them.
Living a few floors apart in the same building, they postulate that having children wrecks a marriage, so the secret to a successful relationship must be to raise a brood first and then find a soul mate.
“Why don’t we do it? Have a kid, get it over with?” jokes Jason, one night. “Bop one out, lose the weight, then look for your guy!”
The couple’s married friends, Alex (Chris O’Dowd) and Leslie (Maya Rudolph), and Ben (Jon Hamm) and Missy (Kristen Wiig), predict disaster, but it’s their own relationships which unexpectedly come apart at the seams.
In fact, Jason and Julie’s set-up - living together but dating other people while sharing responsibility for raising baby Joe - works a treat.
During a stroll with his son, Jason meets actress MaryJane (Megan Fox), who is headlining the musical Chicago on Broadway, and is smitten.
Then Julie starts dating divorced father Kurt (Edward Burns) and underlying tensions between the two friends finally bubble to the surface, forcing both of them to confront their true feelings.
Friends With Kids is a smart, witty and potty-mouthed confection that uses an intriguing premise as a hook for a familiar tale of soul mates who are blinkered to the deep love that binds them.
Scott and Westfeldt are a snug fit, and convince us they have been the see to each other’s saw for years.
O’Dowd, Rudolph, Hamm and Wiig are gifted sufficient screen time to make an impact, striking a balance between ribald humour and uncomfortable, raw emotion.
After a steady build-up, the final act is somewhat rushed.
The Supremes fibbed: apparently you can hurry love.
By Damon Smith
:: SWEARING :: SEX :: NO VIOLENCE :: RATING: 7/10
Released: June 29 (UK & Ireland), 107 mins