Wednesday, May 23, 2012

oh baby ... a movie ... just as expected

When you're pregnant it seems that everyone has an opinion, advice, or just something to say about having babies. They get an opportunity to relive their own pregnancy experience, or to regale your pregnant self with some birthing horror story. One of the other things that gets shoved down your throat, I mean suggested, are all those baby advice books, and the one at the top of the must-have list is still What to Expect When You're Expecting. I'm not sure if I got that particular baby bible as a gift, or just zombie-like bought it for myself while I was gestating, but I know that I put it aside pretty quickly. I ended up finding some of the pregnancy calendars online a lot more helpful. After my daughter was born I was drawn more to the extremely old school. but down-to-earth advice of good old Dr. Spock, as well as friends and family. But enough about that. I have no intention of boring you with my pregnancy stories. There's a movie for that.

There is a glimpse of the book early on in the movie What to Expect When You're Expecting, and then it is ditched. What is served up instead of advice, or even a plot, is a hodge-podge of pregnancy vignettes, featuring five couples who live in Atlanta. They are all white, all straight, and all going through pretty typical pre-baby travails. And the film is capped off by the highly predictable in-tandem rush to the hospital, as three of the couples give birth simultaneously. Uh huh. Yawn. Grrr.

The dudes group, cruising through the park.
It's a shame, because there are a few hints that the movie may have had some potential to be funny, if it had been in the hands of (dare I say it) someone like Adam Sandler or Judd Apatow. It's clearly trying to flirt with Bridesmaids Kristen Wiig-like humor with its focus on the hemorrhoids and morning sickness that frequently afflict pregnant women. But it plays it safe and serves up too many stories featuring people that the audience is unlikely to care about. Its two highest-marquee stars, Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez, are featured in completely superfluous story-lines. Diaz plays a Jillian Michaels-like television host who is having a baby with a reality dance show star (Matthew Morrison). Lopez is a highly glamorous professional photographer who wants to adopt a child from Ethiopia, and who wears enormous false eyelashes while she travels there to pick him up; she has a doubtful-about-adopting husband (Rodrigo Santoro), who we all know will be a happy big daddy in the end. Neither couple is highly relatable or amusing.

In a blatant attempt to bring in the youngsters, Chace Crawford and Anna Kendrick play rival food truck owners (talk about trying  to hit all the current trends at once) who find themselves pregnant after a one-time hook-up. They could have and should have been in their own rom-com. The two have some genuine chemistry, and if they were given better material, they could have stolen the movie, but in this silly Valentine's Day-like celebrity cameo kaleidoscope, they are really out of place.

The two couples at the center of the movie are a father (Dennis Quaid) and son (Ben Falcone) whose wives are both expecting (Brooklyn Decker and Elizabeth Banks, respectively). Their storyline gets to the competitive nature of pregnancy, and Banks gets to exhibit all of the stuff that isn't usually rhapsodized about when you're pregnant — flatulence, having to pee all the time, mood swings, etc. Their scenes together are goofy and over-the-top, but at least they are attempting to make the audience laugh. Most of the other plot lines fall very flat.

The only genuinely funny performances in What to Expect When You're Expecting are provided by Chris Rock and his accident-prone toddler. Rock functions as a guru-of-sorts to a local daddy group, who meet for dude time, taking regular strolls in the park with their young-uns. Every time his crew is onscreen is a good time. Paired with Bank's disillusioned mama-to-be, maybe the movie could have really have gone in the direction of pulling the rug out from under all of the "pregnancy is wonderful" stuff we are used to hearing. But it is doubtful that What to Expect When You're Expecting's author Heidi Murkoff would have approved of that interpretation. So what we are left with are some stale baby jokes and the "when I had my baby" stories that people are dying to share, but no one is ever that excited to hear.
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