NOTE: If you’re a parent or soon-to-be parent who’s expecting to get some laughs at the experiences you went through, you might as well skip this review and consider it a B+. Otherwise, read on at your own risk.
As someone who has a working knowledge of science, I couldn’t be more opposed to the law of attraction. It seems, however, that whenever I mention a movie that I don’t want to see, I end up having to see it anyway. To wit, on Sunday, I wrote that I didn’t expect or desire to see What to Expect When You’re Expecting. And yet, here I am, having wasted two hours of my life that could have been better spent doing anything else.
I took Erin because, well, she’s a girl, and I figured she’d like a romantic comedy/chick flick. I think when we left, though, she was shaking her head more than I was. I’ve seen chick flicks, and although I’m not the world’s biggest fan of them, I can tolerate them if they’re clever enough, and some I’ve outright enjoyed. This, though, might be the worst example of screenwriting I’ve seen in a long time.
The film follows a bunch of couples who are, incredibly, expecting children. It’s not enough that they’re all having kids; instead, they have to each have their own unique life challenges along the way to represent any number of different problems an expectant couple might face.
Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and her husband (Rodrigo Santoro) are struggling to conceive and have blown their retirement fund on in vitro fertilization and must face the prospect of adopting. In addition, Holly loses her job as a
mediocre pop star photographer, so the couple must cope with the loss of income.
Jules (Cameron Diaz) is a fitness guru who wins a dancing competition with Evan (Matthew Morrison). Apparently, though, birth control is not one of the taught dance steps, and he knocks her up.
Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) owns her own breast-feeding store (?) and after two years of attempting to procreate with her completely whipped husband Colin (Ben Falcone), they finally conceive. Wendy is helped by the film’s comic relief, Janice (Rebel Wilson, one of the film’s very few bright spots).
Colin’s father, Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) is a retired hall of fame racecar driver who discovers his much younger wife Skyler (Brooklyn Decker) is pregnant with twins.
Rosie (Anna Kendrick) works on a food truck whose main competition is Marco (Chace Crawford), who invariably woos her with two Budweisers and knocks her up.
What’s that, you say? Too many characters for you to keep track of? Nonsense, say the writers. Just try and keep up through their hilarious (and supposedly, at times, touching) hi-jinks as they navigate the unknown seas of child-bearing.
As the film runs its course, it attempts to show each and every possible outcome of child-bearing from the tragically unfortunate (miscarriage) to the different types of birthing (C-section, with/without an epidural, ridiculously easy, adopting, etc.) with less than stellar results.
Now, before the parents out there rip me for making light of parenthood, please know that I’m not. I can’t imagine the pain a woman must go through to push a screaming little bologna loaf out, and I won’t pretend to. Some of you may see this film and laugh and share in the experiences because you’ve been through it, and I respect that.
The film, though, is predicated upon an astonishingly improbably web of interconnectivity (is that even a word?) and poorly written dialogue that can’t salvage the few hilarious or emotional parts. The attempt to encompass every possible emotion is an admirable one, but it’s stretched so thin that it’s incredibly difficult to become emotionally attached to any of the characters. Every line is so perfectly placed, so delicately handled, I’m sure even the best parents would shake their heads at the treacle endings the film produces.
The acting itself is so-so. Nothing overly impressive, and Marco is by far the stiffest character in the film. His lines are delivered with a general sense of apathy, and other than women swooning over his good looks, there isn’t anything redeeming about him in the film.
There are a few sentimental moments that gave the audience pause, especially in the end, and it’s hard to argue with the joy that new parents experience when they hold their children for the first time. There are also some humorous moments. Chris Rock is pretty funny in his limited role, and his physically precocious child is hilarious at times. Janice is by far the most consistently funny character.
I walked out of the theater angry at the world, and Erin didn’t think too highly of it. She also hated the ridiculously happy ending that every character managed to find. Those of you who are parents and have gone through the struggles some of the characters have, you may tend to identify with the plot and love the movie. If so, more power to you. I imagine this film was aimed at parents so they can reminisce about their experiences, and they may enjoy it more than we did.
As for us, we walked over to the 54th Street close to the theater and grabbed a couple beers to make the pain go away. If the film had focused on just two or three couples and intensified any sort of connection the audience should have with them, then it might work. As it is, it’s just a jumbled mess of big-name stars who try to capture your attention but completely fail. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try and harness some positivity from the law of attraction and say tomorrow Sara Jean Underwood will bring me a sandwich at work.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting gets a D-.