What to Expect When You’re Expecting Review
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The timing couldn’t have been better for the release of the big-screen rom-com adaptation of the pregnancy bestseller What to Expect When You’re Expecting—for me, at least—because it was with a 32-week-old baby bump that I waddled my way into a showing. And, admittedly, thanks to that bump, I was probably able to look more favorably upon it than most of my colleagues.

For the millions who have read the book that inspired the movie—and the millions of others who know about it—it may seem like a strange choice for a summer movie. After all, the book is a pretty straightforward non-fiction tome about the ins and outs (and the dos and don’ts) of pregnancy—about what will happen and what can go wrong. It sounds much more likely to inspire a documentary than a romantic comedy. Really, though, the connection is a loose one. You won’t find a whole lot of pregnancy advice in this ensemble rom-com—just a bunch of couples preparing to become parents.

The film follows the stories of five loosely-connected sets of perspective moms (and dads). Shop owner and staunch breastfeeding advocate Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) is finally pregnant after years of trying—and she just happens to be going through it at the same time as her perky young stepmother-in-law, Skyler (Brooklyn Decker). Holly (Jennifer Lopez) is trying to get her husband, Alex (Rodrigo Santoro), ready to be a father as they wait for their Ethiopian adoption to go through. Reality TV fitness guru Jules (Cameron Diaz) can’t seem to agree with her baby’s daddy, Evan (Matthew Morrison), about anything. And Rosie (Anna Kendrick) is facing an unplanned pregnancy with a guy she barely knows.

Like the book on which it’s based, What to Expect When You’re Expecting covers all of the bases of pregnancy. The women’s experiences are all very different, and the characters vary widely in personality, style, and attitude. Unfortunately, though, with five different stories to tell, the film doesn’t really get a chance to develop any of them. Instead, it offers just short snippets of stories: Wendy’s misery, Skyer’s obnoxious perfection, Jules and Evan’s arguments about circumcision, Rosie’s personal struggles, and Holly’s frustration with Alex’s hesitance.

Fortunately, the pregnancy clichés aren’t nearly as overdone as they are in many movies (like Lopez’s horrendous The Back-up Plan), but they’re definitely still there. And that makes some of the characters (especially Banks’s formerly militant Wendy, who runs the full gamut of symptoms) a little hard to stomach.

Meanwhile, the unexpected highlight of the film actually has nothing to do with the women. While the moms-to-be pop in and out of the film from time to time—to nest and argue and fret about their cankles and loss of bladder control—the real entertainment comes from the men (or, I should say, the dudes). Apparently, pregnancy isn’t all that funny after all—or maybe director Kirk Jones just couldn’t really relate—so much of the focus turns to the Dudes Group, the stroller-pushing papas who meet in the park each weekend (and who try to show Alex the ropes of fatherhood). Their devoted yet amusingly devil-may-care attitude toward parenting balances out the hormones and hysterics of the moms-to-be, and the group’s comedic cast (from Chris Rock to Thomas Lennon) will have you enduring the women and looking forward to more from the dudes.

As far as ensemble rom-coms go, What to Expect at least does a better job than Garry Marshall’s recent flood of holiday-themed messes. And, for those of us who are waddling around in flat, slip-on shoes, lugging extra pounds of kicking, wiggling, heartburn-generating, insomnia-causing baby weight, it offers some much-needed laughter (which could also lead to a few hormonally-induced tears). Despite the flaws and clichés, there’s still plenty here to understand and relate to. At the same time, it gives expectant dads a safe environment, where they can laugh about their partners’ battle with pregnancy psychosis without having to fear the repercussions. So while it’s far from a spectacular film, it’s still good for a few laughs for anyone who’s been there, done that (especially if they’re female). Feel free to catch a showing with the whole gang after your childbirth class.

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