Friday, May 18, 2012

Movie Review: What to Expect When You're Expecting

Matthew Morrison and Cameron Diaz
What to Expect When You're Expecting (2012)
Directed by: Kirk Jones
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Ben Falcone, Matthew Morrison, Anna Kendrick, Dennis Quaid and Chris Rock

I reviewed this film for Next Projection.

Hollywood is known for churning out countless sequels and book adaptations in the hopes of striking box office gold. For decades, many filmgoers and critics alike have bemoaned the lack of originality in the majority of mainstream flicks. However, it would appear that Hollywood has hit a new low -- it has resorted to patching together a script based on a self-help pregnancy manual written nearly 30 years ago.

Universally celebrated for it's ability to accurately chronicle the highs and lows of pregnancy, Heidi Murkoff's wildly successful 1984 tome is a bestseller due to its humorous but honest glimpse of the changes women go through over the span of nine months -- as well as the aftermath and how it affects your relationship.

But a successful self-help book does not make for a strong screenplay. Shauna Cross and Heather Hatch struggle to weave together intertwining stories involving no less than five couples. The result is a series of soulless vignettes that fail to come together as a cohesive narrative. It's like watching the birthing-babies edition of Valentine's Day or New Years Eve.
Chris Rock with Rodrigo Santoro
There's freelance photographer Holly (Jennifer Lopez) who has come to terms with the fact that she's unable to conceive and plans to adopt a baby from Ethiopia with her reluctant husband, Alex (Rodrigo Santoro). Meanwhile, reality show host Jules (Cameron Diaz) finds out she's been impregnated by her Celebrity Dance Factor co-star, Evan (Matthew Morrison). Twenty-something Rosie (Anna Kendrick) discovers she's pregnant after a one-night stand with a former high school crush (Chace Crawford) and dreads telling him the news. Wendy (Elizabeth Banks), the Type-A personality behind the breastfeeding boutique, Breast Choice, is finally expecting a little one with her husband, Gary (Ben Falcone), after years of failed attempts. There's also Gary's egotistical father, Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) and his newly pregnant young wife (Brooklyn Decker) thrown into the mix. On top of all that there's a "dude's group" of fathers, led by Chris Rock, who get together at the local park with their kids and talk about the hardships of parenting.

What to Expect When You're Expecting is an uneven and episodic Hollywood vehicle designed as a quick studio cash-grab. Assembling together a large group of both A- and B-list actors fails to lift the material above its shallow, superficial surface. Anyone looking towards this flick for anything even remotely resembling a humorous angle on the hardships endured by expectant parents will be sorely disappointed. It glosses over the very issues -- infertility and debates over circumcision -- that made Murkoff's book such a resounding success. And any script that includes Lopez sobbing the line "I'm the one who can't do the one thing that a woman is supposed to do" is both cringe-worthy and offensive.

Director Kirk Jones continuously hops between his large cast, rarely taking the time to linger on one storyline for more than five minutes at a time. As a result, audiences are never given the chance to relate to any of the five main plot threads. For a movie that should have been a witty take on parental sacrifice it instead plays out like a stale sitcom. The laughs are incredibly few and far between as the script bounces between each and every one of its increasingly aggravating characters.

In the end, all issues and disagreements are happily resolved as everyone embraces -- and perfectly adapts to -- their new roles as parents.