What to Expect When You're Expecting (2012) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA rated PG-13 for some crude humor, sexual content and language
Running time: 110 min.
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks, Ben Falcone, Rodrigo Santoro, Matthew Morrison, Chace Crawford, Anna Kendrick, Dennis Quaid, Brooklyn Decker, Rebel Wilson, Chris Rock, Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon, Joe Manganiello, Amir Talai, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Megan Mullally, Kim Fields
Cameo: Dwayne Wade, Whitney Port, Taboo
Director: Kirk Jones
Screenplay: Shauna Cross, Heather Hach (based on the books by Heidi Murkoff)
Heidi Murkoff's decades-old, perennially best-selling bible of pregnancy guides lends its name to this routine ensemble concept rom-com (think Valentine's Day or New Years Day or He's Just Not That Into You) about the trials and tribulations of fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, and infant care. The source material has no real stories to tell, whether fictional or otherwise, but covers the bases for expectant parents as to the nature of pregnancy and the biological and psychological changes that one can expect. Basically, it's a mostly unrelated series of fictional sitcom-worthy scenarios packaged under a familiar moniker for easy consumer recognition and consumption.
Set mostly in Altanta, Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher, The Green Hornet) is Jules, the host of her own reality show for extreme weight loss (a la "The Biggest Loser"), who hooks up with Evan (Morrison, Music and Lyrics), the professional dance partner she had on her winning run on a "Dancing with the Stars"-like TV show. Elizabeth Banks (Man on a Ledge, Role Models) plays Wendy, the owner of a popular baby store and author of nursery books, looking to have a first child of her own with schlubby hubby Gary (Falcone, Bridesmaids).
Jennifer Lopez (The Back-Up Plan, Bordertown) and Rodrigo Santoro (300, Love Actually) play photographer Holly and Alex, whose attempts to get pregnant are for naught, and they are looking into the possibility of adoption of an Ethiopian infant to make their (or at least Holly's) dream of parenthood come true, though Alex finds himself in need of a support group of recent fathers who explain the kind of dilemmas he is going to find himself into. Dennis Quaid (Soul Surfer, GI Joe) is former NASCAR champ and Gary's alpha-dog father, Ramsey, who is expecting more on the way with his hot, fit and very much younger wife, Skyler (Decker, Battleship). And Marco (Crawford, The Covenant) and Rosie (Kendrick, Scott Pilgrim) are 20-something cooks in their own burgeoning food truck businesses, who end up getting promiscuous and pregnant, which kicks the relationship up more than a notch than either party is quite ready for.
One of the downsides of What to Expect When You're Expecting is that many of the scenarios aren't exactly what any typical filmgoer might expect. With the exception of the youngster would-be couple, most of the characters aren't average Joes, in the public spotlight for a variety of reasons, with the money and means at their disposal to have the childbirth or adoption scenario that only well-to-do types have at their dsiposal. it can be argued that their hopes, fears, and biological changes are the same as low or middle class families, but the film plays off of reputation and status for laughs more than the actual material of the pregnancy. Meanwhile, even the so-called 'common folk" are played by hunky heartthrobs and riff-a-second comedians (Could Chris Rock (I Think I Love My Wife, Madagascar 2) ever exist in a story as anyone more than Chris Rock?).
Nevertheless, the film starts off with good visual energy, and even if there is a noticeable lack of laughs, there is a sense of fun in watching these personalities mix it up in self-deprecating fashion. But as the stories begin to hit familiar hurdles, it soon becomes evident that most of the characters are either unlikeable or unrealistic, to the point where the impact of a tragedy or the joys of one of life's most beautiful moments feels more like the checking off of a main plot point than the magical experience it is meant to be depicted as from the sometimes-faux-weighty storytelling.
Though pregnancy and parenthood are popular fodder for comedies, the basic idea behind the film isn't a bad one, but I do think, given the various scenarios and characters, it would have been better off as a television series than as a movie, where some sense of depth and believability to the characters would have made the outlandish scenarios funny, or the end result of so much anguish and self-sacrifice meaningful. As it stands, this is a film that offers mildly amusing distractions and hot actor eye candy titillation for those with such low thresholds for entertainment that they prefer not having to think any more deeply about such things as bringing new life in the world than absolutely necessary. What to Expect When You're Expecting gives you a lot of what you'd expect, and little of what you actually hope for.
©2012 Vince Leo