If this movie had come out five years ago, at the height of the celebrity baby-fad, it would be doing much better business than it currently is. As it stands, they took the title of a beloved pregnancy advice book and tried to convey the entire spectrum of potential pregnancy experiences through really broad comedy and unapologetic sentimentality. Aside from some questionable casting, it played better than the trailer made it look.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting wants to illustrate how every pregnancy is as different as the couple experiencing it. Wendy (Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games) has always wanted children and she and her husband, Gary (Ben Falcone, Bridesmaids), have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for years; when she finally gets pregnant, it’s not at all the joyful experience she was expecting. Unfortunately, Gary’s racecar-driving legend of a father (Dennis Quaid, Footloose) and his trophy wife, Skyler (Brooklyn Decker, Just Go With It), are also newly pregnant and Skyler shows Wendy how effortless pregnancy can be at every stage. Jules (Cameron Diaz, Bad Teacher) and Evan (Matthew Morrison, Glee) are reality show contestants having a fun fling until a surprise pregnancy tests whether they can work in a real relationship. Rosie (Anna Kendrick, 50/50) and Marco (Chase Crawford, Gossip Girl) have a one-night stand only to begin a wonderful relationship over an unexpected pregnancy, which is then challenged when the pregnancy doesn’t come to term. Holly (Jennifer Lopez, The Back-up Plan) and Alex (Rodrigo Santoro, Post Grad) can’t conceive so they plan to adopt. When Alex panics at the thought of fatherhood, Holly sets him up with a group of power-fathers called “the dude group” played by Chris Rock (Grown Ups), Rob Huebel (The Descendants), Thomas Lennon (What’s Your Number), and Amir Talai (The Ex List) who treat fatherhood like the thug life.
Sounds like there’s a lot going on? Yup. The filmmakers try to make up for the enormous outpouring of plotlines by pushing as many jokes and sincere confrontations into each scene as possible. The result feels pretty thin, but select elements rise to the top. The dude group plotline, the performance of Elizabeth Banks, and anytime Dennis Quaid and Brooklyn Decker are on screen are all moments that pulled me in. No one could be more surprised than I to find supermodel Brooklyn Decker actually acting, and I couldn’t believe I was genuinely enjoying her turn as the “pregnancy unicorn.” Anyone who read my Just Go With It review would remember some pretty rough shots I took at her and this one made me want to take it back. She and Quaid are a fantastically likable team of egocentrics.
The other stories suffer from too little attention, especially the young one-night stand couple storyline, told mostly through montage, though the audience really wants to see Kendrick and Crawford work it out, it probably has less to do with the clunky screenwriting than it does with the fact that they’re adorable. The most problematic plot centers on Cameron Diaz, who doesn’t seem to have a maternal bone in her body and Morrison, who simply continues to play Mr. Schuester from Glee, just with an unsympathetic Cameron Diaz to try and inspire instead of a group of plucky outcasts. And how does Cameron Diaz keep getting movies where she has to dance? Not even quarter-second edits made her moves convincing. Not a great way to open a picture.