Why does Hollywood continue to churn out these ensemble, based on a self-help book, movies? To make money, I know. That leads me to ask the question of who exactly the audiences are seeing these films? The last in this craze is What to Expect When You’re Expecting, a film with a large ensemble cast based on a popular pregnancy manual. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone who’s pregnant would believe the advice, or even the stories dispensed in this film. There are one or two okay moments, a few moments where the film tries to represent pregnancy as it is, and then there’s the majority of the film…which is totally stupid about pregnancy, families, or women.
A group of interconnected couples go through the trials and tribulations of pregnancy. There’s the unplanned, young love pregnancy of Rosie and Marco (Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford), to the reality show star trying to have it all (Cameron Diaz), and the couple seeking to adopt.
I should preface this with the fact that I’m not pregnant and/or don’t really enjoy films about pregnancy (and I’m female so go figure). With that it seems I found a bit more to enjoy having not seen the trailers and previews for this film. The scenes with the various dads and Elizabeth Banks’ one-liners were funny purely because I hadn’t watched any clips or seen any commercials for this movie (thank you Tivo fast forward button). Had I been inundated with material, like many have, those scenes would have been boring and repetitive. The film’s strongest material comes when it attempts to be dark and present the true issues of pregnancy. One of the couples suffers a miscarriage and while the presentation of the doctor coming out and delivering the sad news is corny and cliché, the film does slow down to gives this tragic moment its due. Miscarriage is a legit issue in pregnancy and it’s nice that the movie didn’t focus all on the flowers and sunshine and create a word where that never happens. Towards the end of the film when the couples start to give birth one of the females starts to fade during a C-section. This scene is by far the most compelling of the feature as; again, this is a very serious and tragic thing that can happen. Had the movie not been a light-hearted comedy and tried to show pregnancy as it truly is, this could have soared the movie into being a heartfelt drama….sadly that apparently didn’t enter the directors or screenwriters minds.
The film just tries so hard to present a “comedy with [insert common everyday occurrence]” that you can see presented in a sitcom. What to Expect When You’re Expecting is no different that “a comedy with a wedding” or “a comedy about divorce” or any of the typical things that happen in life that are mined for comedic effect. The problem is that none of these characters are relatable to people in that situation. I’ve never been pregnant but I know many people who have (including my own mother) and I believe I knew more about pregnancy than any of these people. They should be the ones reading the manual! There’s the typical “I hate my significant other for putting me in this position” speech given during birth, there’s the requisite fat jokes about gaining weight, all of it done in a myriad of better movies or television shows. The fact that the screenplay is written by two women makes the experience even sadder as there’s still apparently no way to write a decent pregnancy comedy for women.
The acting is all about par for these ensemble films. No one really steals the show or tries to rise above the material. The majority of the pregnant characters are highly stereotypical whether in being “hot” like Cameron Diaz and Brooklyn Decker or in being “crazy” like Elizabeth Banks’ character. The men are all in various shades of emasculation and Matthew Morrison and Ben Falcone are just lumps moved around.
I didn’t expect much from What to Expect When You’re Expecting and boy did it deliver! The movie is trite, reduces pregnancy to a series of “women are crazy” jokes, and doesn’t try to show any warmth or compassion in telling the stories. It’s a rental at best for people who enjoy these movies.