Producers: Sam Friedlander, Rebecca G. Stone, Matt DiNicola, David C. Smith and Morgan Patterson   Director: Sam Friedlander   Screenplay: Sam Friedlander   Cast: Danny Pudi, Emily Chang, Eddie Alfano, Maiara Walsh, BrianThomas Smith, Ben Goldsmith, Jenna Macari, Andrée Vermeulen, Kirk Zipfel, Luca Malacrino, Mark Dohner, Dione Kuraoka, Leah Kilpatrick, Ashleigh Hairston, Maya Stojan and Mark Feuerstein   Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

Grade:  B-

This sophomore feature from writer-director Sam Friedlander is an inventive—sometimes too inventive—comedy about having children that’s laid-back and mostly ingratiating but also very leisurely and overstuffed with last-act twists.  Still, an engaging cast makes it watchable.

The script focuses on two couples.  Jeff (Danny Pudi), a would-be environmental sculptor who’s a frustrated sales number-cruncher at a start-up agency, and Sarah (Emily Chang), a meter maid, are divided about having a baby: she’s in favor, he’s reluctant.  During a dinner with their best friends, fitness franchise spokesman Don (Eddie Alfano) and dancer Taylor (Maiara Walsh), they find the same division, but in reverse: Don wants a baby, but Taylor’s not crazy about the idea.  Jeff muses that given the situation, it would be great if they could share a kid, each couple taking the baby half the time and keeping the other half for themselves.

The notion’s dismissed as a joke, but as things progress it becomes a more serious option, especially after Sarah feels her biological clock running down and Don a need to provide his widowed mother with a grandchild.   After a discussion of possibilities with a gynecologist (Brian Thomas Smith) eager to sell them  an expensive procedure, they agree on the most financially viable option: Sarah and Don will simply have sex.  The act will be performed in a hotel bedroom while Taylor and Jeff will wait nervously in the living room for it to be all over. 

The plan apparently works: Sarah becomes pregnant.  But there’s a catch, only the first of many revelations that send the plot into circuitous overdrive until all the twists and obstacles are resolved in a fashion that you might find rather too pat for comfort.  To be more specific would spoil things, though one might feel that down the home stretch Friedlander feels compelled to pull out all the stops when fewer of them might have been preferable.

He also adds a good many secondary threads to the main story arc—Sarah’s repeated encounters with a woman (Jenna Macari) who’s habitually late in refilling her parking meter, Jeff’s complicated maneuvers with his hipster boss (Ben Goldsmith) to arrange his work to give him more time for his sculpting, Jeff’s sessions with a therapist (Mark Feuerstein) about his doubts concerning the whole babysplitting scheme—that, combined with the generally unhurried pacing he brings to the movie, results in a full two-hour running-time.  As edited by Christine Kim, the result doesn’t exactly drag, but it does seem protracted. 

But despite the length one certainly wouldn’t want to dispense with the movie’s funniest single episode—one toward the start, when Jeff and Sarah visit a married couple whose kids, give n the run of the house, attack him mercilessly attack him with their super-soakers.  It’s an expertly choreographed sequence in which the Friedlander’s direction, Pudi’s flabbergasted manner, Alicia Robbins’ lucid cinematography and Kim’s sharp editing work beautifully together, abetted by Jimmy Stofer’s background music.  The hotel sequence, on the other hand, is better in conception than execution; it does go on. 

Among the actors Pudi takes pride of place with his flustered fumbling, but Chang and Alfano aren’t far behind, and Walsh, while often left in the shadow, is fine in a more limiting role.  Among the supporting players Smith gets his share of laughs and Goldsmith is likable, and there’s good work from others in smaller roles, like Luca Malacrino as a sleazy, fast-talking would-be entrepreneur. 

This comedy about overplanned family planning might be a bit overplotted itself, but it makes for generally genial entertainment.