What to Expect when You’re Expecting is only as strong as its best material

What to Expect When You’re Expecting – 2012

Director Kirk Jones
Starring Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Brooklyn Decker, Anna Kendrick, Chace Crawford, Matthew Morrison, Dennis Quaid, Chris Rock, Rodrigo Santoro, Kim Fields
Screenplay Shauna Cross and Heather Hauch based very, very loosely on the novel by Heidi Murkoff

It’s like Love, Actually, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve: with babies.  The decision for whether you watch this film will be based upon your preference for the acting.  Each of the actors and actresses here are pretty much on par with their talent.  Luckily, the ones I like all ended up with each other, so it made sections of the film easier to watch and others easier to discard.

In the plus column, we have Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone as Wendy and Gary Cooper.  They are a not so young couple who’ve been trying for a few years.  The moment they have success, they go to his race car driver father, Ramsey (Quaid), only to find that his hot wife (Decker) are pregnant as well.  The journey that Wendy and Gary take is a unique one, with intermittent and thoroughly entertaining contrasts with that of the elder Coopers.

Banks is incredibly effective in her performance several times throughout the movie my wife and I chuckled in recognition of her misery and smiled at her joy.  As her husband struggles through his role, Falcone walks that line between love and fear.  It was a good match.

The second best combination is Crawford and Kendrick.  Theirs is an enjoyable and sometimes harrowing path that feels painfully vital and real.  Too many relationships have the ring of “best of a bad option” at this point.  Kendrick has a boundless amount of talent, and the draft-like script allows her to stretch that talent in her own way.  Crawford benefits from the performance, but Kendrick is the real draw.

A less entertaining couple is Diaz and Morrison’s celebrity dance duo.  Their issues carry some semblance of authenticity, but there is very little enjoyment in what they go through.  In all, one could have gone without the storyline with some beefing up of the others.

Lopez and Santoro have the least to go on, and this is a match for what they have to add to the film.  Adoption is a worthy subject, but the approach outlined by the script gives only the barest nod to the process.  The most ludicrous aspect to the story is the ridiculous ceremony performed in the village where the child is from.  If the kid is required to be surrounded by the village to leave, then why does he have to leave?  Oh, that’s right, it’s the cute movie-like thing to do.

Absolutely worthless is the roving gaggle of “men” banded together for walks through Central Park every Saturday.  Lead by Chris Rock, who seems to be living a perpetual opposite day, they all spout out these inane rules, as if real men have adopted a new, spineless paradigm whose motto could be “Gutless is the new strength.”  One can understand the central message, that men need to help out, too.  They just go about it in a stupid way.

Overall, the movie is decent, but it could have been a lot better, had they abandoned the collage of stars and gone with a solid one, or even two couples.  How much you enjoy this beyond the best performances and their accompanying plot lines will correlate to what you get out of what remains.

(** out of *****)

 

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