Friends & Lovers


IMDB summary

by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

I think I can pinpoint this for you quite accurately.

Imagine that you tune in for your weekly installment of the sitcom "Friends". As the show begins, you notice something is wrong. There are the usual six friends in their late 20's or early 30's, three boys and three girls. They also pair up as lovers occasionally. Two of the six are brother and sister. But there are six other people playing the roles. What happened? Did they fire the regular cast yet keep the show going? Nah! You just were watching a cable movie channel instead of the network station. This isn't "Friends", but "Friends & Lovers."

It is just like "Friends", except with a cast of unfamiliar characters that you have built no involvement with. In fact, it has just as many typical formulaic sitcom laughs as a typical episode of "Friends", except that they are spread out thinner - thirty minutes of gags spread over ninety minutes.

Should you watch it?

Probably not.

Here's an illustration of why not:

The six friends spend a Christmas weekend at a ski cabin owned by one of their dads. Dad is also there. Stephen Baldwin plays an ignoramus desperate to get laid with one of the three girls. He has the best shot with Claudia Schiffer because she is extraordinarily dim. How dim is she, Johnny? So dim that, although she is German, she is fooled by a guy from New Jersey (the future Iron Man) who is pretending to be German by speaking English with a fake accent. When they retire to the bedroom together, they continue to speak bad English together instead of German. Baldwin is miffed that the Jersey guy cut into his "dumb chick" action, so he takes off his pants and joins them in their bedroom. Jersey Guy takes him aside and tells him that he can have Schiffer in a short while, for sloppy seconds. He agrees.

That gives you an idea of the level of humor involved, as well as the realism and depth of the characterizations. The behavior of the other characters is equally implausible. Although the youthful characters are supposed to be in their 20's or 30's, they all have the sexual knowledge and banter of 15 year olds. The dad is a 50 year old man of supposedly normal intelligence who simply throws a large metal can of food into a microwave to heat it up. Apart from the dubious humor involved, is that a believable scenario?

Roger Ebert and some people at IMDb thought this film to be an abomination which might portend the End of Days, but I thought it was just an innocuous waste of time. Its biggest drawback is that the film's recipe mixes plot and laughs in the wrong proportion, at least for my taste. A sitcom, after all, is just a soap opera wearing a mask of comedy. If you strip away the gags and summarize the plot to your friend, he would not be able to distinguish a sitcom from a soap opera. Because Friends & Lovers takes itself more seriously than a typical sitcom, it lets too much of the soap opera sneak through. The sentimentalized reconciliation between the estranged father and son, for example, is embarrassing to watch, and you may find yourself averting your eyes.

It is kind of fun to see Robert Downey Jr work his magic during the stage when nobody with any sense would hire him because of his substance abuse issues. The creators of this film must now look back and think. "How did we ever get such a monster star to agree to do this role?" but back then he was grateful for the work.

By the way, the screenwriter also plays a part in the movie. He came up with the perfect role for himself. He plays a guy with a really large penis, which is shown in detailed close up.

Why didn't I think of that?