What To Expect When You're Expecting

  • Year:2012
  • Rating:M
  • Director:Kirk Jones
  • Cast:Elizabeth Banks, Cameron Diaz, Anna Kendrick, Jennifer Lopez
  • Release Date:May 31, 2012
  • Distributor:Roadshow
  • Running time:110 minutes
  • Film Worth:$11.00
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

If what you’re anticipating is a schmaltzy, Hollywood take on pregnancy, then this may be exactly what you’re expecting.

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The film's title is also the name of a best-selling book, which has become something of a bible for first-time mothers, and while it's credited as forming the basis of the film, it feels more like an excuse to do a pregnancy-themed Love Actually. The Americans, however, have never been as good as the Brits at these multiple-vignettes-style features, so What To Expect When You're Expecting feels more like it's just a step up from a He's Just Not That Into You or Valentine's Day. Somewhat surprisingly the man behind the camera is Kirk Jones (whose short but interesting list of credits include the charming 1998 fable Waking Ned and the 2009 De Niro drama Everybody's Fine), but any sense of nuance is pretty much lost here. While Jones attempts to offer up a range of experiences, problems and attitudes to pregnancy, each story ultimately ends on the same note: being pregnant blows, but don't worry, it's totally worth it.

The first mum-to-be we're introduced to is Cameron Diaz's television fitness guru just as she hits the floor in the Dancing With The Stars finale. She wins the comp, but then vomits in the trophy on live television. Ah, we get it, it's morning sickness. She must be pregnant. There's Elizabeth Banks who plays the sweet but cloying owner of a maternity store desperate to embrace "the glow" of pregnancy but who - shock! - encounters the roughest time of all. It's a further kick in the guts when she witnesses how well her glamorous step-mother-in-law (Brooklyn Decker quickly turning into a cliché of herself) is coping with her pregnancy to her former race car champion husband (Dennis Quaid). Then there's youngster Anna Kendrick who finds herself in the family way after shacking up with her high school crush (Gossip Girl's Chace Crawford) for a night. A welcome narrative thread attempting to play against formula sees Jennifer Lopez as a hardworking freelance photographer who, unable to have children of her own, is preparing to adopt from Ethiopia. Her husband's (Rodrigo Santoro) not as enthused about the idea so Lopez sends him to a dad's group in the hopes that his paternal instincts will kick in. This "dude's group" is headed by Chris Rock who earns a few genuine laughs by unearthing some painful truths (a highlight is when Rock relays the time he wept in the car after contemplating the cost of sending his kids to college before deciding denial was the best way forward) and a handful of cheap laughs via a bunch of vagina jokes.

Admittedly, there are laughs to be had here and also some simple and relatable truths, but any goodwill that the film earns is strained by a series of stupid comic set pieces, running gags that just aren't funny and the uniform pat solutions handed out to all the characters. The charismatic cast (particularly Banks and Lopez) manage to find the humanity in their clichéd roles but they can't transcend all the surface-level schmaltz on display here. Even the storylines that have the potential to tweak formula are ultimately rendered devoid of any sense of complexity or genuine conflict. After being knocked up by a one night stand, Kendrick's character - who works in a food truck - never even contemplates the alternative of not having the child, and when she suffers a miscarriage (not a spoiler: it's revealed early on), she simply vows to try again when she's ready. Sorted. And despite the fact that adopting a child from overseas normally takes year(s), if you're Jennifer Lopez in a Hollywood feel good movie, notions like waiting lists, paperwork and disappointment don't apply.

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