"Friends with Kids" is "When Harry Met Sally" (1989) meets the "Friends" TV show (1994-2004) meets a comedy by Judd Apatow.

It's also "Bridesmaids" Post-Graduate since four actors in leading roles appeared in that movie.

In "Friends with Kids," Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt, who wrote and directed the film) and Jason (Adam Scott) have been best friends for most of their lives. They see their married New York City friends' lives go from marital bliss to martial law when the babies arrive.

Leslie (Maya Rudolph) and Alex (Chris O'Dowd) turn cohabitation annoyances into major battles against a soundtrack of two screaming young ones.

Missy (Kristen Wiig) and Ben (Jon Hamm), who had a case of the hots for each other before they married, have a case of the blahs once their baby arrives. They go from eHarmony to disharmony faster than you can say "diaper change."

Naturally, or unnaturally, Julie and Jason decide they'll be smarter, avoid complications and friend each other a baby.

After the bundle of joy arrives, Jason begins dating a Broadway chorine, Mary Jane (Megan Fox). Leslie starts dating a very eligible divorcee, Kurt (Ed Burns). All the while, they continue co-parenting.

How things turn out, or don't turn out, becomes a diving board for splashy comedy.

While there are a few belly flops, "Friends with Kids" has some chuckles thanks to Westfeldt's rapid-fire editing which doesn't give the audience a chance to let the air out of the joke balloons whizzing around the rooms amidst snippy, sometimes snappy, dialogue.

Westfeldt (screenplay, "Kissing Jessica Stein"), in her big-screen directorial debut, uses typical pop music movie montages to smooth out the screenplay speed bumps.

The movie has a lot of heart in the final third. I made sure I brought paper tissues and used two. "Friends with Kids" is a two-hankie movie, if not a five-popcorn box movie.

Westfeldt gives herself the biggest and best role. After all, she is the writer-director. She does well by her screen time. She has the presence of a Terri Garr, mixed with a bit of Meg Ryan and Kate Hudson.

The casting could be stronger for her significant other. Scott (TV's "Parks and Recreation"), who resembles Tom Cruise, is fine. I would have preferred someone with more dramatic weight.

You can see the difference in the secondary roles casting. Hamm is solid as a rather despicable character. Wiig makes the most of her small role. Rudolph is becoming one of the screen's or TV's most watchable presences. Her mate also could have been less nondescript.

Fox makes a good impression as the femme fatale. Burns' confidence bolsters the case for more dynamic casting.

The cinematography wavers from romantically-lit to overly-lit. It's as though the film-makers spent more time on some scenes than others.

"Friends with Kids," a chick flick with testosterone, can be recommended for couples, married or not, with children or not, and those contemplating marriage or not.

Word to the wise: Take a tip from the song, "Love and Marriage." Don't put the carriage before the horse.

"Friends with Kids," MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian) for sexual content and language; Genre: Comedy; Run time: 1 hour, 40 minutes; Distributed by Lionsgate.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "Friends with Kids" ends on a jaunty note with the song by The 88, "Coming Home," written by Keith Slettedahl, who wrote or co-rote several other songs in the movie.

Box Office, March 16: "21 Jump Street" leaped to No. 1, opening with $35 million for Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, dropping "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" to No. 2, $22.8 million, $158.4 million, three weeks.

3. "John Carter," $13.5 million, $53.1 million, two weeks; 4. "Project X," $4 million, $48.1 million, three weeks; 5. "A Thousand Words," $3.7 million, $12.1 million, two weeks; 6. "Act of Valor," $3.6 million, $62.3 million, four weeks; 7. "Safe House," $2.8 million, $120.2 million, six weeks; 8. "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," $2.4 million, $95 million, six weeks; 9. "Casa de mi Padre," $2.2 million, opening; 10. "This Means War," $2.1 million, $50.5 million, five weeks; 13. "Friends with Kids," $1.5 million, $4.2 million, two weeks

Unreel, March 23:

"The Hunger Games," PG-13: The advance buzz has reached a hornets' nest pitch. Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen in the big-screen adaptation of the first of Suzanne Collins' popular novels. Hollywood pundits see this as the next "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" phenom. Oh, and by the way, the hideous storyline is set in a science fiction future where a boy and girl are selected to fight to the death on live television.

Read previous movie reviews at www.tnonline.com [1] http://www.tnonline.com [1] . Email Paul Willistein at: pwillistein@tnonline.com [2] and on Facebook.

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes