Sometimes you just have to put your romantic comedy hat on for a movie. There are some movies that will only work if you forget about real issues and emotions and facts and remember that people coming to the film are just looking for a laugh. What to Expect When You’re Expecting is one of these movies. Unfortunately, even when you put your romantic comedy hat on it isn’t that funny.
If you’d like a review that ignores the general idiocy of the film because it’s meant to be a comedy then this isn’t for you. I’m perfectly comfortable ignoring some idiocy in order to have a good time (just check out my Battleship review), but I have to be rewarded with a good time to do it.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting
Director: Kirk Jones
Release Date: 5/18/2012
What to Expect When You’re Expecting is based on the book of the same name, which I have not read, that supposedly gives a straightforward look at pregnancy. However, if the book is only about gorgeous white people who have perfect lives working trendy jobs and have any problems solved by having a baby like the movie is, then I don’t think it’s really that trustworthy. This movie should have been called What to Expect When Rich White People Are Expecting. The closest they come to a minority is Jennifer Lopez adopting a black baby, which is about as much of a minority experience as getting a taxi easily in New York.
We follow five couples through pregnancy from inception to birth. There’s the happily married rich white couple in Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) and Gary (Ben Falcone), whose pregnancy is riddled with everything that could possible go wrong. Then there is the really, really rich couple, Gary’s race car driver father (Dennis Quaid) and his much younger wife (Brooklyn Decker) who have the perfect pregnancy. Next there’s the really, really rich celebrity couple in the form of fitness guru Jules (Cameron Diaz) and her boyfriend Evan (Matthew Morrison) who have the learning to deal with each other pregnancy. We then have the semi-wealthy couple that is forced to adopt, Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and Alex (Rodrigo Santoro), the latter of which also represents the man who isn’t ready for a kid. Finally, there’s the not-so rich but still doing fine, one-night stand couple, Rosie (Ana Kendrick) and Marco (Chasecrawford), who try to bring some balance to all the perfect birthing stories because Rosie has a miscarriage.
It sounds like there’s a lot covered by these five couples when it comes to pregnancy, but really most of their stories are exactly the same, and in the end having a babies fixes everything (even Rosie and Marco’s relationship despite the fact that they don’t have a baby). Everything is played for laughs, which come along every once in a while, but the majority of which are only grin worthy. When the film does decided to get serious in the case of Marco and Rosie having a miscarriage, it almost instantly ditches the two characters except to have them fight once more and then reunite happy in the end. Evidently if you have a miscarriage, you should expect to be kind of sad for a few months, but then pull on through just fine and go on dating your ridiculously good-looking boyfriend. Meanwhile Alex is sent off to hang out with a group of dads in the park whose only purpose in the movie is to make men look really dumb. Even the obligatory speech at the end, delivered by a painfully unfunny Chris Rock, about how dads love their kids falls flat since we see them complaining about having children for the entire film.
But fine, I understand that this film is supposed to be funny and not about actual pregnancy. Maybe there are people out there who can totally ignore the fact that it reduces men to childish idiots, disregards what child birth is like for a large chunk of the population, and glosses over any real feelings with stupid stunts like a golf cart race and a small child routinely falling over. Let’s say you are the kind of person that can do that. In that case, this movie may just be for you because you’ll laugh at stereotype jokes that are older than dirt. You’ll really enjoy watching some pretty funny people work with an incredibly mediocre script.
As far as ensemble cast romantic comedies go I can say I’ve seen worse (New Years Eve), and I’m really struggling to see past all the glaring faults with the premise of the film so that I can picture this as a simple romantic comedy. It’s just really hard. I suppose, that as a running gag, the “dudes group” can pull some laughs out, but they’re pretty much a one joke blunder throughout the film. Wendy and Gary’s story could have worked if it was surrounded by other interesting stories from a variety of expecting couples instead of the exact same rich white people experience four times over. It’s like everything the film tried to do well just gets ruined by something else in the movie. If you’re going to make a funny movie about pregnancy with an ensemble cast why tell the same story three times over and then shove adoption and miscarriage in as an after thought.
Whatever advice the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting gives out is most likely entirely lost by the film versions desperate need to be a romantic comedy to its core. If it had just tried to actually develop any of its characters into people we care about instead of running punchlines then it probably could have delivered on its namesake’s promise. Instead we get a plethora of stereotypes running around the screen with almost no real hints at what becoming a parent is like. If you’re expecting something good out of What to Expect, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.