What to Expect When You're Expecting Directed by: Kirk Jones Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Ben Falcone, Jennifer Lopez, Rodrigo Santoro, Cameron Diaz, Matthew Morrison, Anna Kendrick, Chace Crawford, Brooklyn Decker, Dennis Quaid Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: May 18, 2012
PLOT: The intersecting lives of five couples and their different experiences with pregnancy.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Women (and dudes just like Schwarzenegger's character in Junior) won't find this flick to be all that plentiful with pregnancy wisdom. Though there are jokes specifically targeted at the testosterone in theater, those aren't funny either. While I've never been pregnant, I can say that this movie would probably make my mom (who has actually had nine-pound twins) want to crush someone in the face with this book.
EXPECTATIONS: Hee-haw, not falling for that one. However, I was curious to see how well this self-help book would transition into a movie, especially since the trailers sold it to audiences as "crushingly unfunny."
Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone as Wendy & Gary: With her store The Breast Choice and a children's book called "Milk It," Banks' character is meant to show a kookier side of motherhood anticipation. She's the awkward obsessive, but it's not that funny. Even though Banks is proving in recent roles to be a flexible actor, Wendy's quirks are really forced. As for her on-screen husband, it's nice to see Falcone with more screentime, especially after a memorable brief appearance as Melissa McCarthy's lust interest in last year's Bridesmaids. Unfortunately he isn't given much to work with either, other than a dumb joke in which his name is literally "Gary Cooper." A dramatic scene towards the end shows that he can play "average" with some skill; it just leaves you hoping to see that elsewhere. Score: 5
Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro as Holly & Alex: Lopez already has a handicap in this film because there's little way her newest story of motherhood could be worse than The Back-up Plan (which wasn't terrible, but it still sucked). This is another relationship in which we see women giving orders to their husbands, who aren't really that sturdy themselves anyway. Score: 4
Cameron Diaz and Matthew Morrison as Jules & Evan: This relationship expands the pathetic mystery concerning why we invest so much of our attention on reality stars, when they only (if anything at all) offer showy portrayals of their "profession." Jules & Evan don't have anything really interesting going on in their lives, either about their child, or about their supposed gossip mag-friendly romance. Apparently they just disagree about everything, from names to the concept of circumcision. Still, the movie uses this couple as a central base relationship, because well, they're "On television, dummy." Score: 3
Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford as Rosie & Marco: This entire grating relationship needs a re-haul, or a Rambo-like extermination from an already unenjoyable script. While this mini-arc does try to show a younger perspective on the whole pregnancy thing, it also stinks of trying make an example out of these characters. The fact that Crawford's character is like a diet version of Chris Brown's idiot in Think Like A Man makes it even worse. The couple's pivotal moment brings an unnecessary drop to the story, and is then weakly elaborated on as the rest of the older couples are taking care of their business (especially since Crawford is apparently a smooth d-bag). Even Kendrick can't save these segments of the movie, working at the same natural charm that worked in much, much better movies. Score: 2
Brooklyn Decker and Dennis Quaid as Skyler & Ramsey: Because of the small tinges of insanity that these two show off in this movie, the pairing of Decker & Quaid are probably the most colorful couple of them all. With Decker playing a woman in "comically" excellent status despite carrying twins, Quaid toys with his campy appeal with his former NASCAR driver, Margaritaville-lovin' character. In the perspective of Quaid-ology, this is Dennis going full Randy. Score: 6
TALKING: To keep this movie within the playpen of a stupid romantic comedy, Crawford delivers some criminally sappy lines, and pop culture jokes are made like the script has People Magazine Tourette's. As for this being a self-help book (using the same title of its source), this movie doesn't offer any clear advice. While we can be grateful this movie doesn't have characters directly quoting from the product being sold, we don't actually learn much specific or hardy truths about what to expect during baby harvesting season, or whatever it's called. Score: 4
SIGHTS: In ways both obvious (characters reunite on TV) or small (one characters walk past another), What to Expect When You're Expecting gets a useless kick out of tying the characters all together. (Thankfully, they only share the same hospital, but never the same room.) Other than that, food trucks make another summer movie appearance (okay, that includes April flicks), laying down territory to be the Jessica Chastains of 2012. Score: 3
SOUNDS: The What to Expect When You're Expecting soundtrack has the charm of a commercially hip compilation, featuring tunes like "Home" by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and "Get It Daddy" by Sleeper Agent. For small measures of nostalgia, a cover of "Oye Como Va" by Kinky joins a 2012 remaster of The Human League's "Don't You Want Me Baby." Score: 4
BEST SCENE: The only time I laughed was when Dennis Quaid made some joke involving a pistol (referring to his penis) and Brooklyn Decker blew on his finger. I was the only one in the theater who clapped.
ENDING: This is from the IMDb synopsis: " ... ultimately coming to understand the universal truth that no matter what you plan for, life doesn't always deliver what's expected."
QUESTIONS: Why did this movie not come out on Mother's Day weekend? Did the competition of goofy goth Tim Burton seem too daunting? Did the producers of this movie watch Think Like A Man last month and wish they had gone the sluttier route with book product placement?
REWATCHABILITY: The lack of laughs makes this movie a slow one; a second attempt would just be more miserable and draining. One screening is enough for a long, long time.
Firing off marquee names more than that leap-froggin' alien craft shoots shells in Battleship, What to Expect When You're Expecting is a comedy in need of better strategy. This not funny, not romantic comedy would erase the existence of the inspiring book Terminator-style if this chicken actually came before the bestselling egg. While trying to fulfill a strange quota of limp pop culture references, What to Expect giggles obnoxiously to itself while not offering any of its title warnings beyond displaying the need for supportive loved ones, something even Katherine Heigl could teach us.
With many scenes that beg for re-writes (Banks' missed opportunity for appreciated catharsis at a baby convention, the entire existence of Rosie & Marco) or characters that are more likely to give birth to a white piece of paper than a human being, What to Expect is the Curious Case of Benjamin Button of baby movies - it reduces a highly-developed concept into a rough draft.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10