Synopsis: A look at love through the eyes of five interconnected couples experiencing the thrills and surprises of having a baby, and ultimately coming to understand the universal truth that no matter what you plan for, life doesn’t always deliver what’s expected.
Stars: Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Dennis Quaid, Elizabeth Banks, Brooklyn Decker, Chance Crawford, Chris Rock
Director: Kirk Jones
Running Length: 110 minutes
TMMM Score: (3/10)
Review: When it was announced that a film was being made of the best selling instructional book What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to be referred to now as WTEWYE) more than few eyebrows were raised…mostly because many wondered how a movie would be fashioned out of this source material. What is arriving on screen now is more of a film that is inspired by the book rather than an adaptation but unfortunately it feels even more like textbook filmmaking.
I’m all about the ensemble movie…strong entries like pretty much any Altman film and Playing By Heart blended large casts with criss-crossing storylines. Recent ensemble films like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve have been pretty dreadful – being more about cramming as many stars into the frame as possible. While not as shoddily made as these examples, WTEWYE still doesn’t quite know what to do with its large cast and judging from several performances, the actors don’t quite know what to do with themselves either.
Know going in that everyone you meet in the movie is connected somehow and not always in the most creative fashion. One actor is identified near the end as the cousin of another character only because they have to have a reason to visit them in the hospital, right? Riiiiiight. The film was adapted/written by Heather Hach and Shauna Cross with a tin ear for realistic dialogue and nearly no character development. Director Jones also doesn’t have a strong directorial voice…but it honestly doesn’t matter because the star wattage in the film more than outweighs this relatively inexperienced director.
In terms of star wattage WTEWYE runs the gamut from A List Oscar nominees to C list CW/FOX TV stars. Heading up our A list is Diaz and Lopez, both miscast in their roles as, respectively, a celebrity trainer for a Biggest Loser-type TV show and a marine photographer unable to conceive herself. Right away I recognized that Diaz and Lopez should have swapped roles. I would buy Lopez as the trainer and Diaz as the photographer simply because they are so unconvincing in their given roles that any change would have been an improvement.
Our A- list actors are a misused Kendrick as a food truck owner who goes through her own pregnancy journey after a one night stand with a former flame (Crawford who seemed to have learned his lines phonetically). Kendrick is better than this material but doesn’t seem to believe it so her budding big screen career takes a stumble here.
I’m reserving a new paragraph for Banks because she is an actress that I find myself growing to love with each role. She caught my eye in Seabiscuit and has built up a great arsenal of characters ever since. She scored earlier this year with a spot-on role in The Hunger Games and has another strong performance in June with People Like Us. The smartest thing that WTEWYE does is sign her paycheck because she brings the right mix of exhaustion and energy to her stereotypically written role. While I do question why her character owns a high end baby store without ever having had a child, when she and her husband (Falcone who doesn’t quite steal the scenes he did in Bridesmaids) do get pregnant their arc is the most consistently entertaining.
Another high point are the Mens Group scenes that the ads feature heavily. Sad to say many of the funniest moments have been spoiled if you’ve seen the trailer but that doesn’t quite diminish the delight that you may take seeing Rock and the other pops wax ridiculous about their life in the dad lane. Rock’s young son also nearly steals the show with no dialogue…trust me.
Rounding out the cast are fairly unmemorable performances from a cavalcade of unmemorable faces…it’s not worth mentioning more because they didn’t seem to care enough to do something with arguably weak material.
The worst thing about the movie is it looks so cheaply made…I know the producers probably drained their budget on the star salaries but it has the look of a Lifetime movie. Your enjoyment of this is probably dependant on how much you expect from this expectant comedy. Set your bar low and you may get something out of this but understand that it’s a movie that doesn’t need to be seen in the theaters and may work better on the small screen. For summer counterprogramming, I can see why this may be a success with women but can’t see it inspiring a sequel.