A film review by Craig J. Koban September 19, 2012



2012, PG-13, 109 mins.

Jules: Cameron Diaz / Holly: Jennifer Lopez / Wendy: Elizabeth Banks / Marco: Chace Crawford / Skyler: Brooklyn Decker / Rosie: Anna Kendrick / Evan: Matthew Morrison / Gary: Ben Falcone / Ramsey: Dennis Quaid / Vic: Chris Rock / Alex: Rodrigo Santoro

Directed by Kirk Jones / Written by Shauna Cross and Heather Hatch, inspired by the book by Heidi Murkoff.

Frankly, I was not expecting WHAT TO EXPECT WHILE YOU’RE EXPECTING to be so aggressively awful.  

It’s funny, but for a film to have a title like this to be about the life-altering transformation of couples to parenthood there is not really one iota of meaningful commentary or insight into the anxiety plagued nine months that leads to the birth of a child for a mother and father.  Instead, what viewers are dealt with is insipid TV sitcom-worthy comedic material, a bloated running time, and an ill-focused screenplay that is dissected into six flimsily handled subplots involving various couples awaiting their first bundle of joy.  WHAT TO EXPECT WHILE YOU’RE EXPECTING takes a significant event for people and reduces it to manufactured and mediocre audience-placating pap. 

If the title sounds familiar to you...then it’s because it probably is.  WHAT TO EXPECT WHILE YOU’RE EXPECTING is based on the very famous1984 self-help book of the very same name by Heidi Murkoff, which has gone on to become one of the most revered and popular books of its kind (it even made USA Today’s list of the “25 Most Influential Books” of the last 25 years).  From what I do know about the literary source material, it contains no plot or characters, per se. but this has not stopped the makers of the film adaptation – I use that phrase ever-so-loosely – from appropriating its title for the sake of marketing itself.  Much akin to this summer’s BATTLESHIP – which was very, very weakly adapted from a board game – WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING is a paper thin film venture that lazily cashes in on the immense popularity of a book by contributing nothing of value from its source except its title. 

The film follows the immensely uninteresting trials and tribulations of five Atlanta couples that are all struggling to cope  – in their own unique and would-be hilarious manner – with the stresses and joys of bringing a baby into the world.    First off we have Jules (Cameron Diaz), who is a ridiculously buff TV fitness trainer that’s on one of those reality shows that strives to get obese people skinny.  While on one of those thinly veiled DANCING WITH THE STARS shows she manages to suddenly vomit into her prize trophy, after which the announcer deadpans, “Hope she’s not pregnant!”  Yup, she is, thanks to a fling with her partner, Evan (Matthew Morrison). 



Next up is Wendy (the typically radiant and funny Elizabeth Banks, coming off here as uncharacteristically desperate for laughs) is a suburban mother that runs a baby shop that has just put out a children’s book called…ahem…"Breast Friends", which just may be the most inappropriate kiddie book ever (it’s a story about a baby’s relationship with his mommy’s…ya know).  Thanks to a wonderful new app on her smart phone, Wendy finds out that she's ovulating and informs her whipped and obedient husband, Gary (Ben Falcone) that it’s “Go-time!”  Gary dutifully obliges, but he nonetheless has a lot on his plate.  He has other daddy issues in the sense that his father, Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) is a rich and famous ex-NASCAR driver with a hot trophy wife (Brooklyn Decker) that he has knocked up with twins.  The pressure is really on Gary to perform now. 

We’re not done yet, folks.  There’s yet another couple in the form of Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and husband Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) that have been trying to have kids but can’t, so decide to adopt a beautiful baby boy from Ethiopia.  Their plans are stymied when Holly loses her photography job just after – gasp! – they bought a bigger house for the family-to-be.  Next up is a pair of mobile restaurant owners, Marco (Chance Crawford) and Rosie (Anna Kendrick) that are both limitlessly attractive people that manage to have one fleeting night of hanky-panky that accidentally gets Holly preggers, which complicates matters for the both of them.  Lastly – phew! – We have a group of new fathers led by Vic (Chris Rock) who meet weekly to cruise around the parks pushing their Hummer-sized baby carriages trying to keep themselves sane with the day-to-day grind of child-rearing their respective infants. 

Of the good in this film I will say this: Chris Rock and Anna Kendrick give the only remotely credible and effectively low performances in this otherwise hackneyed multi-plotted romcom (Kendrick is an actress that can apparently do wonders with a character that’s essentially on pure auto-pilot).  Yet, the other actors and the actual pairing of of actors in the film are dead on arrival.  Chemistry between various performers ranges from limited to utterly non-existent, the latter which is especially true for Lopez and Santoro, who are both beautiful looking people that, alas, are blander than bland on screen together and never make for a convincing married couple.  The same can largely be said regarding Banks and Falcone; although they have a modicum good comic timing between them, their relationship nonetheless seems as dutifully and artificially rendered as any other in the film.  Diaz and Morrison are all kinds of flat and banal together on screen.  Dennis Quaid seems to be the only actor having some gleeful fun with his broad role, which may have something to do with the fact that he gets to snuggle with a former real-life Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model throughout most of the film. 

There’s simply too much going on in this film for me to care, notwithstanding that the makeshift bonds that are created between the respective couples lacks conviction.  There’s rarely a genuine and heartfelt moment in the film that makes it easy for us to reasonably care for these individuals.  Even when the story makes a detour to Ethiopia for Alex and Holly’s journey to adopt their new son, it feels less heart-tugging and sincere than it does feel nauseatingly desperate for would-be dramatic payoff (that, and using Third World strife for the purposes of this kind of film feels a bit inexcusable to me).  Ultimately, by the time all the couples are either having their babies – during which we get the obligatory hospital scenes of actresses screaming at the top of their lungs with doctors bellowing out “puuuuuush!” – it’s becomes really hard to give a damn.  WHAT TO EXPECT WHILE YOU’RE EXPECTING is one of the most disposable and instantly forgettable films about great looking actors pathetically feigning chemistry that I’ve seen. 

What’s even more damning is that the film was directed by Kirk Jones, who previously made charmers like WAKING NED DEVINE and NANNY MCPHEE.  It’s sad to see him make a bloated, superficial, charmless, and mournfully unfunny mess of a romcom as WHAT TO EXPECT WHILE YOU’RE EXPECTING.  This film never in any way shape or form promises to answer what its title proposes; instead of preparing viewers for what pregnancy and child birth is like, all it does is prepare us for seeking a quick exit from the cinema when the film is over.

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