What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Ensemble comedy from the self-help book series

Also opening this week:

• Piranha 3DD ★½

What to Expect When You’re Expecting


Directed by Kirk Jones. Starring Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Chace Crawford, Brooklyn Decker, Ben Falcone, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Morrison, Dennis Quaid, Chris Rock, Rodrigo Santoro, Joe Manganiello, Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon, Amir Talai, Rebel Wilson, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Genesis Rodriguez. Written by Shauna Cross, Heather Hach, from the books by Heidi Murkoff.

Just what you’d expect. Sigh. What to Expect When You’re Expecting, directed by Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine), is the latest entry in the Valentine’s Day/New Year’s Eve/He’s Just Not That Into You genre of ensemble romantic comedy; like the latter picture, this one has the dubious honor of being based on a self-help book, the (controversial) series of pregnancy guides by Heidi Murkoff.

The film is good for about one thing, as a handy collection of every possible pregnancy stereotype you can think of in one 100-minute film. It may potentially provide some comfort for expectant couples, or evoke some memories for those who have been down this road. For the rest of us, it’s incredibly thin stuff that proves to be a real chore to sit through.

Plot is almost non-existent; we have five expectant couples (well, four plus a couple looking to adopt) taken down the usual roads to parenthood. Why five couples? For maximum stereotype exposure, so each one can have their own unique (read: cliché) experience. The only challenge for the writers here (Shauna Cross and Heather Hach) is how to convincingly tie the storylines together so we end up with most of them giving birth on the same day, in the same location.

There’s Jules (Cameron Diaz), a reality TV weight loss show host, who is having a baby with Evan (Matthew Morrison), a reality TV celebrity dance contestant. And writer Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) and her husband Gary (Ben Falcone), a former weight loss show contestant who has relationship issues with his father. And of course, Gary’s father Ramsey (Dennis Quaid), a former race car driver, who is expecting with his much-younger wife Skyler (Brooklyn Decker).

And rival food truck operators Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford), who become unexpectedly expectant after their first time sleeping together. And baby photographer Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and her husband Alex (Rodrigo Santoro), who cannot conceive, and plan to adopt an Ethiopian orphan.

So thin are each of these storylines that any one of them could be completely excised and the movie would not be significantly altered. Take out four and you might be getting somewhere, if only because the remaining story would have to be sufficiently fleshed out.

Five main storylines, 100 minutes, that’s roughly 20 minutes per storyline, or slightly less time than is devoted to an episode of a TV sitcom. Which is about the best you can expect here. There are some vaguely touching moments here and there, but as far as comedy goes, I didn’t crack a smile once.

Then there’s a major subplot, which thins the movie out even more and represents the worst What to Expect has to offer. It involves a ‘Dude’s Group’ (Dad’s Group?) that Alex attends in preparation for his impending fatherhood. Chris Rock, Thomas Lennon, Rob Huebel, and Amir Talai play a group of clueless (but happy!) negligent fathers who wander the park with infants strapped to their chests as the film desperately attempts to appeal to a male audience (but, instead, is more likely to offend male members of the audience).

I can’t say I expected anything different. Take a self help book, shoehorn it into formulaic ensemble comedy, pepper it with every last stereotype to fit the theme, and you have a mighty thin stew. Best of luck digesting this one.

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