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REVIEW: "What To Expect When You're Expecting" Exceeds Expectations

Lindsay Dale |
May 18, 2012 | 10:20 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

 Lionsgate Publicity)
Lionsgate Publicity)
Although the pregnancy-centered romantic comedy "What to Expect When You’re Expecting" uses a disjointed structure and plenty of clichés, its talented cast and humorously sentimental storylines will nevertheless manage to get plenty of belly laughs from its target audience.

 Similar to earlier multiple-character romantic comedies like "Love Actually" and "Valentine’s Day," "What to Expect When You’re Expecting" follows several couples through the trials and tribulations of falling and staying in love.  The film differentiates itself from its character-heavy predecessors, however, by adding a new twist: each couple is navigating the dangerous waters of preparing for parenthood.  Among the couples are fitness trainer Jules (Cameron Diaz) and professional dancer Evan (Matthew Morrison), two reality stars whose large egos constantly collide as they bicker about their unborn child; self-proclaimed pregnancy expert Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) and her husband Gary (Ben Falcone), who quickly learn that child-rearing will be more difficult than they expected; and competing food-truck owners Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford), whose onetime tryst has unforeseen consequences.  The only relationship that does not directly involve pregnancy is the marriage between Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and Alex (Rodrigo  Santoro), who decide to adopt an Ethiopian child amidst Alex’s insecurities.

Interestingly, the most compelling storylines in the film belong to the lesser-known stars.  Banks and Falcone expertly showcase their comedic talents as Wendy realizes that pregnancy involves much more than a maternal glow.  Further hilarity ensues as the two compare themselves to Gary’s wealthy father Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) and his younger, seemingly perfect wife Skyler (Brooklyn Decker).  A scene in which Gary and Ramsey race golf carts to determine who will be the better father comically shows their juvenile personalities, and Skyler’s easy pregnancy relative to Wendy’s nightmare will generate laughs among any female who has ever compared herself to another woman.  Meanwhile, the film instills a more heavy-handed but thought-provoking tone in its discussion of Rosie’s accidental pregnancy.  Although Marco’s transformation from flirtatious ladies’ man to doting boyfriend and father certainly seems rushed, Kendrick and Crawford’s genuine likability endears viewers to Rosie and Marco – and convinces the audience that their risky relationship just might work. 

Another one of the film’s strengths lies in its depiction of the “dudes’ crew” – a team of four fathers who militantly stride around the park each day with their babies strapped to their chests.  These characters that could have been one-note come to life with hilarious results as they advise Alex, who is extremely nervous about adopting a child, about fatherhood.

Much like the pregnancies it portrays, however, "What to Expect When You’re Expecting" is nowhere near perfect.  It fails to establish clear connections between the different couples and neglects to make smooth transitions between storylines, making the narrative feel disjointed and uneven at times.  Furthermore, the pairings featuring better-known actors tend to fall flat.  Although Lopez exudes warmth and kindness, Santoro seems to have one expression: that of apprehension.  Thus, Alex’s relationship with Holly seems forced and leads the viewer – along with many of the film’s characters – to believe that Alex does not truly want to adopt a child.  Similarly, fitness mogul Jules’ overly argumentative nature, coupled with Diaz’s lack of chemistry with Morrison, unintentionally convinces the audience that Jules and Evan are wrong for each other.  Indeed, their bickering becomes so tiresome that many female viewers will most likely tune out their dialogue in favor of admiring Morrison’s impressive physique – a goal that producers undoubtedly had in mind as they cast the actors.

Despite its flaws and its predictability, however, "What to Expect When You’re Expecting" nevertheless proves itself to be a funny and heartwarming chick flick.  Its use of clichés actually works in its favor because it provides audiences with two sure-fire crowd-pleasers: happy endings and happy babies.  The movie is a prime example of what audiences should expect when they want to see a humorous yet sentimental romantic comedy – of course, with an added focus on attractive male actors and the challenges of pregnancy.            

Reach reporter Lindsay here.



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