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Saturday, May 19, 2012

What to Expect When You're Expecting

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If there's one kind of romantic comedy I've grown increasingly weary of, it's the kind that assembles an all-star cast, and then tries to juggle multiple characters and plot lines. Most movies have a hard time creating one believable couple up on the screen, what makes filmmakers think they can handle five or more? To be fair, What to Expect When You're Expecting is certainly an acceptable movie, but not much more than that. It's cute, it's pleasant, and it has a lot of bright actors playing characters that didn't require much thought for the writers or the actors.

picThe movie is loosely inspired by book by Heidi Murkoff, but it has about as much to do with the book as this weekend's other big release, Battleship, has with its own source material. In other words, both films are only using the famous title to bring in audiences. This is a gentle, feature-length sitcom about different couples, and their unique road to parenthood. Our first couple is Jules (Cameron Diaz) and Evan (Matthew Morrison). She's a TV fitness guru who meets her love when they're paired up on a celebrity dance show. Jules realizes she's pregnant when they win the competition together, and she throws up in the trophy cup on live TV. Next, is Gary (Ben Falcone) and Wendy (Elizabeth Banks). They've been trying to get pregnant for years, and when they finally are, they end up getting upstaged by Gary's former NASCAR racing father, Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) and his 40-year-younger trophy wife, Skyler (Brooklyn Decker, who's also in Battleship this weekend). When Gary and Wendy try to announce they're expecting a baby at last, Ramsey and Skyler have to announce they're expecting twins.

picThese two couples and their plots make up a majority of the film. Also floundering about the narrative, competing for our attention, are Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and Alex (Rodrigo Santoro), who can't have children and decide to adopt a baby from Ethiopia. Finally, there's Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford), who are competing mobile food vendors that once dated back in high school briefly, and are brought back together after a one night stand leads to Rosie being pregnant. Also thrown into the mix is the "dad's group", a group of dads who get together every Saturday in the park, and discuss their family lives and children. They're led by Vic (Chris Rock), and exist for no reason other than the screenwriters thought the script needed just a few more characters and plots, and for Chris Rock to do some mildly funny stand up material on fatherhood.

picOf all the plots swimming about What to Expect..., the dad's group probably should have been the first to hit the cutting room floor. They don't belong in the movie, and they don't really contribute. Outside of that, there's nothing really wrong with any of the couples portrayed in the film. They're all likable, and they're all played by agreeable actors. But, thanks to the multi-plot format, we don't really get to know any of them as much as we should, because the movie's always jerking us in a new direction with a new story every few minutes. All of the different couples and plots are separate from one another for the most part. There are some loose connections scattered about (Jennifer Lopez' Holly does some artwork for Brooklyn Decker's Skyler), but not much. The only real connection between all these people is that they all end up going to the exact same hospital at the exact same time for one reason or another.

picThis is a bright and cheerful movie for the most part. It's safe, it's sanitized, and aside from the rare sad moment or two, nothing all that bad happens to these people. At the very least, it doesn't try to be what it isn't. It doesn't try to pretend that there's more on its mind than being a frothy sitcom of a movie. As far as those go, this one's not that bad. The cast is good, even if they're not exactly being challenged here with their characters. The movie also moves along quite well, despite a nearly two hour running time. It actually doesn't give itself a chance to drag, since it's always leaping from one point of interest to the next. This may not be a very memorable movie, but at least it's not a boring one.
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What to Expect When You're Expecting is what I call a "rainy day movie". If you catch it on TV some time on a boring, gray afternoon, it won't offend, and you might even enjoy it. It actually seems like it was made to be watched on TV, with you still in your pajamas, and you don't feel like going out. In a big theater, it feels pretty forgettable. But on TV on such an afternoon, it might serve its purpose better. It will probably still be pretty forgettable, though.

See the movie times in your area or buy the DVD at Amazon.com!

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