Star-packed brand-name pregnancy comedy just doesn’t deliver
What to Expect When You’re Expecting
Starring Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks & Dennis Quaid
Directed by Kirk Jones
110 min., PG-13
Release date May 18, 2012
Since 1984, millions of women have become disciples of the bestselling series of “What To Expect” books by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazell, which continue to guide pregnant and new moms in detail though the stages and phases of prenatal and childhood development.
One thing the books don't address, however, is how to deliver a funny, heartwarming movie about pregnancy from a pregnancy advice book. And so, this new star-packed romantic comedy flies under the famous brand name of the iconic self-help title but flops around exhaustively with a lame script, multiple storylines that only lazily overlap, and a dirty diaper bag of sex jokes, sentimental mush, cartoonish claptrap and weary parent-to-be cliches.
Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Brooklyn Decker, Anna Kendrick and Elizabeth Banks make up the central cast of women whose separate maternal arcs span a spectrum of humor and heartbreak. When things get too heavy, the movie yuks it up with a gaggle of stroller-pushing dads led by comedian Chris Rock. The so called “dudes group” basically walks around a city park and fires off zingers about female reproductive anatomy, mini-vans, the time one of them picked up the wrong baby from daycare, and other riffs on fatherhood that feel like they should be followed by comedy-club rim shots.
Dennis Quaid clearly has fun with his role as a randy retired sports-car racing champ who's still got quite an engine purring under his hood as he awaits the birth of new twins from his much-younger hottie second wife (Decker). Ben Falcone, a gifted, low-key comedic actor who plays the husband of Banks' character, an author of breastfeeding books for young moms, is a dentist whose devotion to his wife's ovulation cycle makes him late to his first “grille appointment” for a rapper.
Hunky Chace Crawford, who'll be familiar to viewers of TV's “Gossip Girl,” plays a young food-truck entrepreneur whose night of rekindled passion with an old high-school flame (Kendrick) forces him to think beyond his bacon sandwiches. Lopez is a freelance photographer whose inability to conceive leads her to consider adoption. Diaz plays a TV fitness instructor who finds out she's pregnant when she throws up in her trophy after winning a “Dancing With the Stars”-type television competition series.
The movie scores some points by taking its big ensemble cast to shoot on location somewhere that's NOT New York…in this case, Atlanta, Ga. The big-screen change of scene provides a refreshing whiff of Southern air, with some new skyscrapers and street views for backdrops.
It's also a nice change of pace to see a summer movie where the special-effects budget isn't spent on blowing something up, but instead goes toward convincingly turning flat actress abs into ballooning baby bumps. (Come to think of it, I guess that is “blowing something up,” after all.)
Not surprisingly, almost all the characters eventually come together in the local maternity ward (even ones who aren't pregnant), where the movie milks the final stage of child bearing—birth—for one last round of titters before hammering home its message about how the miracle of new life makes all the pain, discomfort and emotional fireworks of pregnancy worthwhile.
Most mothers, undoubtedly, would agree wholeheartedly. But they won't need this half-baked, star-stacked, comedic dissertation on pregnancy to tell them so, even if it does have a trusted trade name that helped bring a many a baby into the world.