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September 13, 2012

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

by Franz Patrick

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (2012)
★ / ★★★★

“What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” directed by Kirk Jones, showcased four couples who learned that they were going to have a baby. Although the fact was a surprise for some of them, like Garry Marshall’s “New Year’s Eve,” the film felt more like a reason for various celebrities to appear in a movie together instead of a realistic or accurate portrayal of couples really dealing with events that would surely change the course of their lives. At its best, it was somewhat cute despite its overwhelming number of platitudes. Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford) were former high school classmates who became food truck chefs. Even though they were attractive, there were moments when I believed that their reconnection contained a much needed weight, a seriousness despite their age, to add to a mostly airy and vapid screenplay by Shauna Cross and Heather Hach. I liked their occasional spark and willingness to be taken seriously. At its worst, it was an idiotic portrayal of middle to upper-middle class in their thirties with no genuine problem other than the pregnancy. Its lack of ambition was maddening. Evan (Matthew Morrison) and Jules (Cameron Diaz) were reality dance competition champions. When they learned that they were going to have a baby boy, their main problem was whether the child should get circumcised. Evan argued that his son should because he was Jewish. Jules believed the procedure was unnecessary and potentially traumatizing. I glared at the screen with an “Are you kidding me?” look. Knowing each other for only three months and obviously having very little in common, it was obvious that the circumcision debate should have been the least of their worries. It was an assault to the intelligence that we were supposed to believe them as a couple when they knew nothing about each other and we knew nothing about them. Meanwhile, while the strand involving Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) offered something different because they had chosen to adopt a baby from Ethiopia, it was also frustrating to watch because the seriousness and difficulties of adoption were too often swept under the rug. An unfocused mess ensued as the screenplay ineptly juggled light comedy in the form of Alex bonding with a group of seemingly miserable dads (led by Chris Rock) at the park and pensiveness of the father-to-be not feeling completely ready to be one. I would rather have had the material focus on either one, preferably the latter. Lastly, we knew that Holly was ecstatic to have a baby–biological or otherwise. However, it was disappointing that it didn’t take a risk by asking how Alex really felt about potentially raising a baby who was not of his flesh and blood. It was a valid feeling worth exploring. It may not have been easy to deal with but tackling it might have forced us to feel closer to the material. The fourth couple involved Wendy (Elizabeth Banks), a new children’s book author and store owner, and Gary (Ben Falcone), her plain husband whose insecurities took center stage whenever his dad (Dennis Quaid) was in the vicinity. Their story was not at all about pregnancy because it was overshadowed by the unhealthy competition between father and son. Each time Gary and his father tried to one up each other, it was an awkward and painful experience. I wondered why Wendy and Gary were even necessary to the film. Based on the books by Heidi Murkoff, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” committed the sin of resting on celebrity power to make funny happen instead of challenging its actors to deliver pleasant surprises. Since the picture lacked variation, scope, and ambition, I was astounded as to why it was made in the first place.


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