What to Expect When You’re Expecting (2012)

by - May 18th, 2012 - Movie Reviews


What to Expect Walks a Familiar Path

I didn’t need, want or ask for What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Inspired by the best-selling series of pregnancy self-help books by Heidi Murkoff, the movie is an all-star comedic enterprise featuring five different couples dealing with pregnancy, whether wanted or not, or that are in the process of adopting a child. They’re all on the verge of parenthood, and while that’s fine and dandy a movie about the subject made in the same vein as He’s Just Not That Into You or Valentine’s Day wasn’t exactly high on my must-see list.

PHOTO: Lionsgate

The good news is that director Kirk Jones, a fine director who has Waking Ned Devine, Nanny McPhee and Everybody’s Fine on his resume, seems somewhat of an inspired choice to make this menagerie of prenatal mayhem a potential success. Even better is the presence of screenwriter Shauna Cross, her adaptation of her own short story helping make Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It an absolute winner in every sense of the word.

Sadly, their efforts aren’t enough, Cross and Heather Hatch’s (Freaky Friday) script mining territory a lot of other productions have trod upon numerous times before and doing so without any sense of imagination or originality. There are few surprises, subtlety is almost nonexistent and much of the comedy feels forced and unnatural. The devices used to bring all five of the couples into contact with one another is frustratingly maudlin, and by the time the film reached its preordained conclusion I was a little shocked the majority of the audience hadn’t fallen asleep.

Not that this is a complete disaster. One of the subplots involving former high school classmates and inadvertent lovebirds Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford is surprisingly moving, Jones allowing their moments together to reverberate with subtle grace, the filmmaker keeping dialogue to a minimum while allowing the actors to emote with empathetic understanding as they navigate complex feelings that threaten to overwhelm them. They have a moment in a hospital that is wonderful in its understated majesty, the director secure in his knowledge that the audience is smart enough to sum what is happening for themselves without any unnecessary embellishment on his part.

Then there is a tangent involving a quartet of fathers helping guide potential dad-to-be Rodrigo Santoro, his story involving the adoption of an African child by him and costar Jennifer Lopez, the foursome going out of their way to make sure he understands everything he’s soon to be in for. Chris Rock headlines this sequence, and I’d forgotten just how much I like the comedian when he’s used in moderation. Whenever he’s around the movie comes close to soaring, part of me wanting more of him until I came to my senses realizing less is typically more where it comes to this particular actor.

PHOTO: Lionsgate

But the rest of the movie? Sheesh is it a mess. While the actors all try, and while many of them have some decent moments (especially Cameron Diaz and, somewhat surprisingly, Brooklyn Decker), the majority of the film is a mushy self-important misfire that left me cold. The pieces holding it all together are beyond creaky, most coming awfully close to breakage more often than not. An entire subplot devoted to Elizabeth Banks’ parental advice expert who gets an overly-hormonal taste of her own medicine is borderline embarrassing, and I can’t remember the last time a movie made me feel as sorry for an actress as I did for her in this.

There’s no point going into a detailed synopsis. There are five couples, all of them are pregnant (or, as already stated, adopting a child) and each will have to overcome a few misadventures in order to find what it is they are looking for. Jones does what he can, and the script isn’t terrible, but the movie still remains instantly forgettable and doesn’t do anything that isn’t preordained right from the beginning. I don’t know what I expected walking into What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but walking out I did know what I’d gotten, this comedic misfire an unfortunate waste of time I’d rather not have seen in the first place.

Film Rating: 2 (out of 4)

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