[Review] – What to Expect When You’re Expecting

31 May

Title: What to Expect When You’re Expecting
Year: 2012
Director: Kirk Jones
Writers: Shauna Cross and Heather Hach, based on the book by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Chace Crawford, Brooklyn Decker, Anna Kendrick, Joe Manganiello, Matthew Morrison, Dennis Quaid, Chris Rock, Cheryl Cole, Rodrigo Santoro, Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon, Amir Talai, Ben Falcone
MPAA Rating: PG-13, crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language
Runtime: 110 min
IMDb Rating: 5.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 22%
Metacritic: 41

Everything about the latest ensemble rom-com, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, made it seems as though we were in for yet another crappy film in the vein of Valentine’s Day (which I gave a C- to) or New Year’s Eve (a D). Those films had tons of people I liked involved in them, and so does this one, with a huge line-up of stars that includes Elizabeth Banks, Chris Rock and Anna Kendrick, the three of whom I really like, but then the promotional material was just so damn trite, the posters were horrible and the trailers suggested that we were going to get material we have all seen time and time again. Oh, and yeah, it’s based on pregnancy guide.

Now, while I actually think that this is better than those two very bad films I named above, it’s still not by much, and if you too thought that this one would belong in the same category as those then you were actually, unfortunately, right on the money. Because even though the performers themselves, charming as many of them are, do fare better than their counterparts in those other films, in which even the most likable of faces I thought were quite bad, the film still relies just too heavily on the most typical and generic clichés in the rom-com playbook, and you just can’t get behind a movie like that.

The film follows around five couples who will all experience the process of childbirth in one way or another. You have Cameron Diaz and Glee‘s Matthew Morrison as two celebrities who are surprised by the high demands of pregnancy. You have the adorable Anna Kendrick paired up with Gossip Girl‘s Chace Crawford as two rivals in the food truck business who get a surprise after an unexpected hook-up, in what is by far the best storyline of the bunch. Then there’s Jennifer Lopez, a photographer ready to travel the globe to find the right child to adopt, and her husband played by Rodrigo Santoro, who has his doubts and goes to a “dudes” group where fathers hang together. Then there’s Elizabeth Banks as an author of these baby books who gets a taste of her own medicine, while her husband, played by Ben Falcone, has the added pressure of sort of competing with his dad, played by Dennis Quaid, who’s expecting twins with his young and hot trophy wife played by Brooklyn Decker.

These characters will then go through a series of events that are entirely predictable, and worthy of only a mediocre sitcom. And it sucks because I have no doubt that the film would argue that it introduces us to all these different couples to explore different sides of the process of pregnancy and whatnot. In reality, had they just focussed on one, they would have been able to give a lot of depth to the story and explored all those emotions with one story with substance instead of having a handful of shallow stories that you have to juggle in the air to assure screen-time. You can’t connect with stories this flimsy, no matter how much you like the actors playing them out.

Of course the film will indeed touch upon some stuff that’s actually relevant to what it takes to bring a child to the world and the toll that process can take on one. But for every moment that actually speaks some truth there are far too many others that absolute bury whatever resonance those others might have had, because they try too damn hard to go for a comedic or romantic set piece the likes of which we have seen in far too many other films. The dad’s group that Rodrigo Santoro goes to, led by the character of Chris Rock, is just horrible, no matter how many one-liners Mr. Rock gets to throw at us. It’s a clear attempt at getting men to watch a movie aimed at women, and yet only to prove the latter part of that sentence there’s the fact that the “dudes group” has a friend in Joe Manganiello‘s character, who’s only used in this movie to take off his shirt and show off his abs.

There’s just not much about this movie to particularly like, really. You have a ton of really famous faces thrown together into a series of vignettes that are super loosely tied together just for the sake of being able to justify the existence of these stories in the same movie. And that’s quite infuriating because you’re left thinking about the laziness of the people who wrote this, and about how much the talents of some really great people went to waste in this one, no matter how much Mr. Rock earns his laughs or Mr. Crawford and Ms. Kendrick actually do a good job. Yes, those guys are good, and so is Ms. Banks, but by going from one story to the next, you aren’t given enough time to actually care for them as characters.

Like I said, however, this is all stuff you could have easily expected (pardon the pun) had you watched any sort of promotional material for What to Expect When You’re Expecting. This film plays out exactly like I imagined, with the shallow characters, the clichéd moments, the overused thematic elements, and the only surprise coming from the fact that neither Ashton Kutcher nor Katherine Heigl make an appearance in this movie.

Grade: C

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