Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What to Expect When You're Expecting

Directed by Kirk Jones.
2012. Rated PG-13, 110 minutes.
Cameron Diaz
Jennifer Lopez
Elizabeth Banks
Brooklyn Decker
Anna Kendrick
Dennis Quaid
Ben Falcone
Rodrigo Santoro
Chris Rock

Rebel Wilson
Thomas Lennon
Wendi McLendon-Covey
Chace Crawford

If you’re eternally optimistic like me, or not, and have children you’d expect to laugh during a movie that bills itself as “laugh out loud funny for any parent!” Trust me, it does. Says so right on the back cover of the DVD, exclamation point included. Sadly, this may be the best joke involved with this movie, even if it is on me. My mother was right. I’m too gullible. She warned you couldn’t always depend on the goodness of Mankind or of advertising geeks who work for movie studios.

Unlike the blurbs occupying real estate on its cover, the title What to Expect When You’re Expecting is accurate. After all, we do meet a handful of women who will very shortly be expecting. By the way, this movie is based on the best-selling advice book of the same name. That probably should’ve been a warning. Anyhoo, we then journey through pregnancy with the soon-to-be mamas. In short order there’s the fitness guru/reality tv star (Diaz), the pregnancy expert who’s never been pregnant (Banks), the photographer who can’t get pregnant (Lopez), the girl who runs a food truck (Kendrick) and the NASCAR trophy-wife (Decker). Other than Banks and Decker, these ladies have nothing to do with each other. Well, almost nothing. At some point, they cross paths with each other in the most brief and contrived ways possible but still don’t get involved in one another’s stories. No, the scene in the pic above never happens.

However unrelated they may be, they do have something in common besides swollen bellies. Not one of them is the least bit funny. Almost none, but we'll get to that. Part of the problem is these women are not all that likeable. They’re self-absorbed mongers whose pregnancies have little to do with the circle of life. Instead of nurturing bundles of joy they seem to be incubating accessories - assets in one’s portfolio or validation of self-worth, and so on. Most galling, one is merely a depressing plot point in a budding romance.

None of the actresses turn in memorable work, either. Elizabeth Banks fares best and is part of the funniest, most heartfelt and oddest scene. Lopez does her best to look constantly forlorn. Diaz’s Jillian Michaels impression is meant to be a hilarious parody but fails miserably at the hilarious part. Finally, Decker seems to be channeling Jaime Pressly making me wonder why they didn’t just get the real thing. For the most part their men blend seamlessly into the background. The normally unexciting Dennis Quaid plays Decker’s husband/racing legend and stands out simply because we’re positive he has a pulse. And yes, since this is a “zany” comedy everyone will go into labor at precisely the same time. Gee, without me you never would’ve guess…who am I kidding? You knew that was a sure bet as soon as the second lady turned up in a family way. I confess, there is one exception. J-Lo literally takes the Angelina Jolie route to family expansion. Even that wraps itself up right on cue. Sigh.

Sideline players fare ever-so-slightly better. Rebel Wilson is mostly just there but elevates the Banks scene I referenced earlier. Wendi McLendon-Covey hits with a few zingers during her limited time on-screen. Most consistently amusing is the group of fathers who walk together in the park, kids in tow, led by Chris Rock and Thomas Lennon. They aren’t “laugh out loud funny for every parent,” but they’re a welcome reprieve from all the hand-wringing and failed humor of the major storylines. None of this is enough to salvage this heap. What to Expect is a classic case of a talented ensemble given nothing to work with and going through the motions.

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