‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Lopez
Directed by: Kirk Jones
If it only takes nine months to have a baby, why does this movie about having babies seem to last more like nine years? If this is the best that Hollywood can deliver about the business of giving birth, then let’s segue quickly to the next superhero.
Much like the recent “How To Think Like a Man,” this is a mash-up of no less than 10 actors playing couples experiencing, in this case, pregnancy. This, too, is based on a bestselling book. Author Heidi Murkoff probably never dreamed her advice on those critical nine months could be turned into a comedy featuring a plethora of popular stars — so many, in fact, they jockey like a nursery full of octuplets for screen time.
There’s the meet-cute couple of Cameron Diaz as a weight loss coach with her own show and her celebrity dancing partner on one of those reality shows played by Matthew Morrison. Their little off-screen cha cha produces a pregnancy they are sort of – not really – prepared for.At the same time, Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone play marrieds who are so ready to be parents but are having a difficult time getting pregnant. They finally manage to just as his father played by Dennis Quaid and much younger trophy wife Brooklyn Decker are also expecting. Chace Crawford and Anna Kendrick represent the younger, non-committal generation as two chefs who own food trucks – Hollywood’s newest on-screen profession. They hook up for a one night stand and viola! A baby is on the way.
The last couple, played by Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro, have the most somber storyline as an infertile couple who are preparing to adopt — she more ready than he, who is facing a lot of fears and anxiety about parenthood serious enough to derail their plans.
Spanning nine months (just as the book), the story culminates in the overloaded delivery room of the local Atlanta hospital, where most of the couples arrive at the same time in the throes of labor. Brave is the woman who would ever want to have a baby after sitting through the last 15 minutes of this. Three women screaming for epidurals and three or four babies later, it’s time for the sequel based on child rearing. Dr. Spock, anyone?
There is so much going on in this movie that there is never time for anything to really happen. Just as something develops between two characters, it’s time to cut away to another couple. And they must also share screen time with a group of dads who bond over trips to the park with their kids. Led by Chris Rock, their exchanges reveal what really goes on when mom is not around, like saying you fed your child the healthy snack instead of the McNuggets.
While every concern from finances to breastfeeding is addressed, no topic receives anything but cursory treatment. Hopefully the book went a little deeper into these topics. This is strictly entertainment, and pretty lackluster entertainment at that. Banks benefits the most as the woman who so wants a child but finds carrying it to term is not all it’s cracked up to be. She’s grumpy instead of glowing, and her meltdown at a motherhood convention is classic.
The characters escaping with the most dignity are Lopez and Rodrigo. They appear more grounded as wannabe parents with some real issues and obstacles to getting a child. Diaz and Morrison are too superficial to be taken seriously, while Crawford and Kendricks have more problems than an unexpected pregnancy.
If this had been set against a holiday, oh say, Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve, I might have suspected Garry Marshall at the helm, but this lacks the schmaltz overload of a Marshall movie. Oh well, sometimes what you “Expect” is not what you get.