I think I can pinpoint this for you quite
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
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?
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.