What to Expect When You’re Expecting

What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a potentially interesting film, although it would only be that way if it didn’t go the ensemble root and try to jam, as many characters and storylines in as possible. It’s simply too much, meaning each separate mini-story is going to feel as if there isn’t much weight to it. Ensemble films are often difficult to manage because there isn’t enough time to devote to each story. This is a film that people can point to when looking for an example of that.

There are five prospective mothers in the film, and four separate stories. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to look up these characters’ names online, because there was no chance of me remembering them from the film. The first is Jules (Cameron Diaz), a fitness instructor and a celebrity dance competition contestant. Her partner is Evan (Matthew Morrison). From what I can gather, their storyline is the most normal, and is meant to show what the majority of pregnancies will be like; apart from, you know, the whole “celebrity” thing.

Next, we have Wendy (Elizabeth Banks), and her husband, Gary (Ben Falcone). They’ve been trying to have a baby for a couple of years now. When she finally gets pregnant, we learn that Gary’s father (Dennis Quaid) and stepmother (Brooklyn Decker) are also expecting. Gary and pop have unresolved issues, and Wendy and Decker’s character wind up on polar opposite ends of the pregnancy spectrum. Wendy has an awful time with it, while the other has absolutely no issues whatsoever. It’s supposed to be funny, and in a sense, it is.

There’s also Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) who plan on adopting because it’s not working out for them. Finally, we have Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford), who have a one night stand and then have to deal with the consequences of that … at least, for a while before the film decides that doing that would actually be beneficial or interesting, so it steers away, resulting in a miscarriage and characters who completely change in personality in each scene we see them.

This isn’t even getting into a “dude’s group” involving a bunch of fathers taking time away from their wives, walking around a park with their children. Any time the film decides to follow them, it loses a lot of steam. The only highlight that comes from the “dude’s group” storyline is Chris Rock showing that he has a touch of potential at being a serious actor. A little bit. Not a lot, but it’s kind of refreshing to see him in this kind of role. He’s not obnoxious, yet he still gets some humorous lines.

All of these separate stories have to be juggled. Sometimes we’ll spend a good fifteen minutes on one before moving to the next one, while other times we’ll go quickly from one story — a single scene, or perhaps half of a scene — to another. When it does stick to just one relationship, it actually starts to work. We get involved in some of these people’s lives, and there’s enough humor thrown in to keep us laughing. It makes me think that it would have worked better if we followed just one of these plots instead of attempting to see them all.

There’s a good chance you recognize the title. What to Expect When You’re Expecting is the — so I’m told — go-to pregnancy guide. Presumably, each of these characters represents something from the book, although I’m not about to read it to find out. I have to wonder if the book fell into rom-com clichés at every turn. Somehow, I doubt it. That’s the movie that director Kirk Jones has made. Ultimately, it’s harmless, but you really have no reason to watch it, either.

I’ll admit to having laughed a few times over the course of the film. I can’t remember a single specific time, but I do recall having the “ha ha” sound coming out of my mouth at some points while I was watching the movie. If all you want from a movie like this one is light entertainment — something you won’t remember or want to think about even a few moments after it’s completed — then I suppose it will do the job.

It still should have been better. You have a lot of talent assembled here, and this is the best thing that could be made? Never mind that the subject matter being adapted doesn’t directly translate, there are a great deal of funny people in this movie, and there are only a handful of laughs scattered throughout. It doesn’t even have much at all to say about pregnancy, as all of the storylines take their cliché to the extreme, ensuring that you can’t learn anything or gain any insight. If that’s what you want, you’d be better off risking the book.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting is an ensemble comedy about pregnancy that has such a lack of depth that I wished the ensemble was dropped so we could follow a single story. That way, characters could actually exist — archetypes would, ideally, be removed in favor of human beings — and we could actually gain some insight into what happens during pregnancy. The film works as light, forgettable entertainment, but if you’re looking for anything other than that, you’ll want to keep searching elsewhere.

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