out of Five
Running time: 110
What To Expect When You're Expecting is largely predictable, by-the-numbers fare, but the likeable cast ensure that it remains just about watchable, even if the laughs and genuine emotional moments are thin on the ground.
What's it all about?
Directed by Englishman Kirk Jones, What to Expect When You're Expecting is a multi-character comedy-drama inspired by the 80s best-selling self-help book by Heidi Murkoff. Set in Atlanta, the film centres on five couples who are each experiencing various aspects of starting a family: TV fitness expert Jules (Cameron Diaz) is pregnant by her celebrity dance show partner Evan (Matthew Morrison); photographer Holly (Jennifer Lopez) is planning to adopt, but her partner Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) isn't sure if he's ready; a burgeoning relationship between food truck operators Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford) hits a snag when she gets pregnant the first time they sleep together; and children's author Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) finally gets pregnant after years of trying with her husband Gary (Ben Falcone), only for the pair to be upstaged when Gary's father's (Dennis Quaid) much younger wife (Brooklyn Decker) also gets pregnant.
The starry cast delivers likeable performances, though there's disappointingly little interaction between the various couples and anyone hoping for, say, a catfight between Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez is going to be bitterly disappointed. Banks is particularly good as Wendy (her meltdown scene is probably the film's highlight) and there's strong support from the likes of Chris Rock and Thomas Lennon as two members of a group of baby-walking new fathers offering advice to Alex.
The script makes a commendable attempt to cover a broad spectrum of experiences and goes to some unexpectedly dark places as a result, but that ultimately backfires as, firstly, it ends up becoming too manipulative and secondly, having touched on an emotive issue, it fails to follow through with the characters involved. By the same token, the film largely focuses on Jules, Alex and Wendy, so Lopez, Kendrick and Crawford's characters are more or less side-lined, which is a shame, as the film could have used a lot more of Kendrick's spiky wit and sparky line delivery.
The main problem is that too many of the jokes fall flat or seem ill-judged (there's a vomit joke within the opening three minutes), while one particular moment (a character calls an un-coordinated toddler a “spaz”) is needlessly offensive and should have been cut completely. On top of that, the script never quite hits the required emotional notes, perhaps because it all feels so contrived and predictable.
As multi-character films based on self-help books go, What to Expect When You’re Expecting isn't quite as good as He's Just Not That Into You (which admittedly isn't saying very much), though at least it's better than the likes of Valentine's Day and New Year's Day.
What to Expect When You're Expecting (M)