Mark Reviews Movies

What to Expect When You're Expecting

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING

1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Kirk Jones

Cast: Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Rodrigo Santoro, Ben Falcone, Matthew Morrison, Chace Crawford, Brooklyn Decker, Dennis Quaid

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language)

Running Time: 1:50

Release Date: 5/18/12


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Review by Mark Dujsik | May 17, 2012

What to Expect When You're Expecting follows fives women who are, as you may have guessed, expecting a baby. Four of them are pregnant; one is adopting. Three of them are married; two are not.

One of the unmarried women is a "celebrity" who hosts a reality TV show in which she puts overweight people through an extensive weight-loss program. She is in her late 30s, has a fantastic life with absolutely no financial concerns, and is in a relatively stable relationship with the father of the baby-to-be (Note that the movie offers no genuinely stable relationships, because circumstances must come into play to heighten the conflict of what they probably didn't expect).

The other woman—in her early 20s—who becomes pregnant isn't as lucky. Yes, she runs her own business (a food truck, which apparently is the career du jour), but doesn't have a massive mansion. She rents, splits pizza with her friends, and, above all, doesn't have a steady romantic relationship. She becomes pregnant after a one-night stand with a guy she had a crush on in high school (who also runs a food truck). The guy is shocked that she's pregnant after one time, which is about as logical a statement as nothing that a person finds something in the last place one looks.

The story of the "celebrity," named Jules (Cameron Diaz), is, like just about every other of the central female characters in the movie, stale. One of the five, a trophy wife with a Texas drawl named Skyler (Brooklyn Decker), isn't even an important character but a comic foil to the difficulty of the others (Her delivery is literally as easy as sneezing) and an accessory for the odd conflict between one of the women's husbands and his father (It climaxes with a golf cart race). That husband, named Gary (Ben Falcone), is a dentist to the stars; his father Ramsey Cooper (Dennis Quaid) is a retired racecar driver who carries a wad of cash with him everywhere he goes. Their conflict really begins and ends with the fact that he named his son Gary Cooper.

They are all, essentially, well-to-do. Gary's wife Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) runs a baby store and has a successful book about breastfeeding on the shelves. When Holly (Jennifer Lopez), loses her most profitable photography gig, she almost immediately finds a replacement after her former employer accidentally tells Holly's husband Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) that she had to let Holly go. The gaffe offers about a minute of conflict, and then there's the group of fathers with which Alex aligns. They're all about talking about the less glamorous parts of parenthood without judgment while one's son spends his time doing things like carrying around a dead cat (I couldn't have made that up).

The exception in the department of female characters is Rosie (Anna Kendrick), the food truck owner, who has an awkward flirtation with Marco (Chace Crawford) that goes a little faster than she might have preferred. It's an innocent enough thing, so one has to wonder why she becomes the exception to living up to the movie's title.

We must enter so-called "spoiler" territory here, and it's only a spoiler because it is the exception. For her one night and not being in a comparatively sturdy relationship, Rosie is essentially punished with a miscarriage.

This is really quite a reprehensible plot turn; in dramatic terms, it's mind-boggling. What screenwriters Shauna Cross and Heather Hach ("adapting" a series of guides for pregnant women by Heidi Murkoff) see in these other characters is unclear, especially when set against Rosie's. Here's a character in a situation that possesses conflict and struggle by its very nature. Instead, Cross and Hach expend their efforts attempting to tie the other characters together in increasingly transparent ways (A scene that gives Jules and Gary a history and has her ambushing him at Marco's food truck is particularly embarrassing, perplexing, and useless). Director James Kirk and editor Michael Berenbaum chop and sloppily paste the scenes with little concern for the overall flow.

Beyond the execution of the narrative and the way the ensemble's collective situation is portrayed (That's the right way to describe it, considering all the pregnant women wind up essentially having their babies simultaneously—with an incredibly cheap bit of melodrama to boot), What to Expect When You're Expecting has only one character that could be worth a sympathetic look. We see how that turns out for her.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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