Since its publication in 1984, Heidi Merkoff’s best-selling pregnancy and parenting book series What to Expect When You’re Expecting has provided normal, everyday expectant parents with a witty, honest, and delightfully entertaining assessment of pregnancy and what to expect during parenthood. How then, do screenwriters Shauna Cross (the charming Whip It) and Heather Hach miss so badly in adapting for the big screen? For starters, the film, bearing the same name, barely resembles the book. Too, there’s nothing honest - or particularly normal - about a film that follows a group of celebrities and reality stars through the rigors of childbirth and parenting.
For instance, Jules (Cameron Diaz) is a celebrity personal trainer with her own weight loss TV show (a la The Biggest Loser), and her pregnancy partner is Evan (Matthew Morrison), a professional dancer on Celebrity Dance Factor, a show that resembles reality’s Dancing With the Stars. The story of their unexpected pregnancy, and hence intertwined lives, unfolds alongside that of four other couples slapped with the reality check of pregnancy.
Next, we meet retired NASCAR legend Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) and his “trophy wife” Skyler (Brooklyn Decker). Skyler is one of those annoying women who experiences very little change during pregnancy - save for a volleyball-sized lump in the belly - and gives birth with such minimal effort as a covered sneeze on the delivery table. Her experience is juxtaposed against that of Wendy (Elizabeth Banks), a celebrated baby book author and her husband Gary (Ben Falcone), a dentist. The couple has been so focused on the goal of becoming pregnant, they’ve forgotten the objective of having a happy marriage. Oh, and Gary happens to be the adult son of Ramsey. Their wives apparently conceived at almost the same instant.
Advertising executive Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) and his baby-photographer wife Holly (Jennifer Lopez) – the only non-celebrity couple - are undergoing an adoption process while Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford), two young, ambitious food truck entrepreneurs (don’t miss the allusion to The Great Food Truck Race), grapple with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy following a one-night stand. The film jumps back and forth between all five stories, then periodically visits the disjointed thread involving the "dude's group," a bunch of dads who spend time together walking in the park with their children. In a desperate attempt to throw a bone at any guys in the audience, the mantra of Dude's Group is "what happens in dude's group, stays in dude's group." But even the antics of Chris Rock aren't enough to make it funny.
Dredging the target-rich environment of pregnancy and parenthood for comedy should be like shooting fish in a barrel. After all, Merkoff’s source material is a veritable gold mine of situational humor and tongue-in-cheek facetiousness. But instead, Cross and Hach go for something else. And under the direction of Kirk Jones, it’s all a gelatinous, discombobulated mess of misfires, near misses, and complete failures. The comedy isn’t funny, the drama isn’t affecting, and none of the characters is real or approachable, save for those of Kendrick and Crawford, whose relationship ends in heartbreaking tragedy.
Curiously odd angle the filmmakers took in choosing celebrity characters to portray what they had hoped would be a genuine and honest depiction of the varied experiences of pregnancy. Just shows they really don't know the audience for the film. Do we really care about the pregnancies of celebrities though? Isn’t it already sickening enough watching the offspring of privilege and wealth play out in real life in the tabloids and on TV? Or is there some kind of devilish pleasure to be gleaned from watching celebrities play celebrities struggling with the ravages of uncontrollable flatulence, outlandishly large breasts, and aching backs? Unfortunately, What to Expect When You’re Expecting manages to make a condition with any number of built-in excuses for outrageous behavior and uncontrollable body changes unfunny, unromantic, and totally unrealistic… just what we expect from a romantic comedy.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language.
Director: Kirk Jones
Writer: Shauna Cross and Heather Hach
Cast: Cameron Diaz; Elizabeth Banks; Dennis Quaid; Chris Rock; Jennifer Lopez
Genre: Romance | Comedy
Tagline: There is no judging in 'dudes group.'
Memorable Movie Quote: "If I knew I'd have a rack like this, I would've gotten knocked up years ago."
Official Site: whattoexpectthefilm.com
Release Date: May 18, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: Over the moon about starting a family, TV fitness guru Jules and dance show star Evan find that their high-octane celebrity lives don't stand a chance against the surprise demands of pregnancy. Baby-crazy author and advocate Wendy gets a taste of her own militant mommy advice when pregnancy hormones ravage her body; while Wendy's husband, Gary, struggles not to be outdone by his competitive alpha-Dad, who's expecting twins with his much younger trophy wife, Skyler. Photographer Holly is prepared to travel the globe to adopt a child, but her husband Alex isn't so sure, and tries to quiet his panic by attending a "dudes" support group, where new fathers get to tell it like it really is. And rival food truck chefs Rosie and Marco's surprise hook-up results in an unexpected quandary: what to do when your first child comes before your first date?.