Friday 22 July 2016

Movie Review: What To Expect When You're Expecting (2012)

A multi-story ensemble cast romantic comedy, What To Expect When You're Expecting is as bad as can be expected. The concept of adapting a pregnancy guidebook into a movie was only ever going to result in a trivial experience, and the outcome is the blandest from of purée.

Five stories unfold in parallel. Jules (Cameron Diaz) is a celebrity television fitness instructor who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant after sleeping with her dance partner Evan on a reality television show. Both are type-A personalities and clash over every detail. Freelance photographer Holly (Jennifer Lopez) is desperate to adopt a child and makes plans for an overseas adoption from Ethiopia. Her husband Alex is less ready to start a family.

Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) runs a maternity shop and becomes pregnant after years of trying with her husband Gary, who is locked in a lifelong competitiveness contest with his ex-racing car champion dad Ramsey (Dennis Quaid). Sure enough, Ramsey's much younger trophy wife Skyler (Brooklyn Decker) is also pregnant, and with twins. And food truck operator Rosie (Anna Kendrick) finds herself pregnant after hooking up for one night of sex with former high school flame Marco, who runs a competing truck.

Directed by Kirk Jones, What To Expect When You're Expecting borrows the title from Heidi Murkoff's go-to pregnancy guide but is otherwise a banal exercise in stars cashing cheques for doing little. The film predictably follows the five mini-stories from conception to delivery, with plenty of bare but fake baby bumps, barely any laughs, no depth of character and nothing new to offer.

The best that Jones can come up with in terms of surprises is one pregnancy that terminates early, one inconvenient loss of employment causing financial stress, and routine plot devices involving dads feeling not ready for the major upcoming change in lifestyle. It's all dealt with in the most superficial, obvious manner with no style to cover up the lack of substance.

The performances are uniformly overexcited, with Dennis Quaid suffering the most embarrassment as the insufferable dad engaged in a perpetual hobby of humiliating his son. In relative terms, Anna Kendrick emerges with some credit, and it's no surprise that her role aims for more drama and less fluff. Chris Rock makes an appearance as part of a group of dads who meet in the park with their kids to try and provide comic relief, and Rebel Wilson plays store owner Wendy's sidekick.

What To Expect When You're Expecting is as tedious as that eighth diaper change at the end of an exhausting day filled with baby poop and burps.

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