With Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Brooklyn Decker, Anna Kendrick. Written by Shauna Cross, Heather Hach. Directed by Kirk Jones. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language. 110 minutes.
The makers of WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING take the title of the popular self-help book for parents-to-be and film the index. Well, not quite, but in providing a comedic drama about five couples dealing with baby issues, they manage to check off a whole list of topics from sensitive nipples and weight gain to epidurals and circumcision. More serious moments tackle topics like miscarriages and adoption. What the movie doesn’t do is provide much depth to any of the characters.
Wendy and Gary (Elizabeth Banks, Ben Falcone) hit all the expected speed bumps in the process, even though she runs a store for infant clothes and products. Her pregnancy doesn’t go quite the way she imagined. Gary’s highly-competitive father Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) has gotten his much younger second wife pregnant. Skyler (Brooklyn Decker) looks like a model and isn’t experiencing the slightest problem. Then there’s TV personality Jules (Cameron Diaz) who is pregnant by her TV dance partner Evan (Matthew Morrison). And there’s photographer Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and her partner Alex (Rodrigo Santoro), who are looking to adopt an Ethiopian baby together. Finally, Rosie (Anna Kendrick) gets pregnant after a fling with former high school classmate and competing food truck operator Marco (Chace Crawford).
Hijinks ensue from a chorus of the “Dudes Club” – guys who are already fathers led by Vic (Chris Rock) – who point out how their lives ended with parenthood. We also get the various problems that arise from such things as morning sickness and the onset of labor. As noted, there are some touching moments too but one gets the sense that the filmmakers had their list of topics and exchanged high fives after doing, say, a scene involving a C-section birth. Cross that one off.
The performers are pleasant enough and there’s enough light humor to avoid the train wrecks of such multi-character movies like “New Year’s Eve” and the current “Think Like A Man.” The competitiveness between Ramsey and Gary is really lame, with both actors being better than the material. The film does much better by its female characters with Kendrick (“Up In The Air,” “50/50”) once again proving she’s got a long career ahead of her if she wants it. Diaz and Banks get to play women who think they’re on top of everything and discover that the miracle of life has other plans for them. Lopez is stuck with the thankless part of the adoptive parent where things go much too easily to fit into the limited running time. Perhaps the surprise here is Decker (“Just Go With It,” “Battleship”), a striking former model who hits some unexpected notes as the person with the flawless body and the equally flawless pregnancy. She even gets a scene in which she demonstrates that she can be more than the cartoon characters she’s been playing all along.
“What To Expect When You’re Expecting” is not a great film by any stretch-mark of the imagination, but it manages to get through its running time without too many lulls. It provides some genuinely funny and real moments so that people who have gone through one or more pregnancies themselves can relate. It’s odd to release a film like this now but one suspects this is the movie women will go see this weekend while the guys are flocking to “Battleship.”•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.