Movie Reviews

‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’: Labour pains

By Travis WongMovies - 17 May 2012 12:00 PM | Updated 7:17 PM

‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’: Labour pains

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

An ensemble comedy based on a 28-year old non-fiction book, this film might have an impressive cast, but parts of it are probably as painful as giving birth.

About five couples are piled into this two hour long film. Jennifer Lopez is a photographer who can’t have a child, so with partner Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) decides to adopt one from Ethiopia. Cameron Diaz, who looks like she’s done enough plastic surgery to turn herself into a walking Barbie Doll, is Jules, a fitness guru who hosts a ‘Biggest Loser’ lookalike TV show, and gets pregnant with her dance partner Evan, ‘Glee’s’ Matthew Morrison.

Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) finally gets pregnant after desperately trying with husband Gary (Ben Falcone). As it turns out, Gary’s dad (Dennis Quaid), a NASCAR legend, also impregnates his young wife Skyler (Brooklyn Decker).

Finally, food cart owner Marco (Chace Crawford) knocks up Rosie (Anna Kendrick). In case you haven’t figured out, the film launches a bunch of jokes about pregnancy, motherhood and childbirth at you. Interposed within are baby and paternity jokes, and plenty of obligatory cute baby shots.

Too many of the jokes just seem to be looted from other places, and there’s little fresh material in this that hasn’t been explored in other movies. Yes, men and women behave differently during pregnancy and have different expectations, and pregnancy is tough; this is common knowledge.

You've heard of fist bumps. This one's called the baby bump

Banks is probably one of the better comic actresses in the group, and as breast-feeding store owner Wendy, a job that she starts even before she gets pregnant, she does score a couple of chuckles.

Chris Rock, as an advice-dispensing leader of pram-pushing dads who mentors Alex, manages a few decent zingers but not enough to punch up the film. Director Kirk Jones has to rely on a gag revolving around a child who’s constantly tripping and getting into all sorts of trouble for laughs, which isn’t even funny the first time around.

There’s otherwise very little and is as pleasant to sit through as changing a soiled diaper. There are a few tonal shifts that aren’t very smoothly handled, but considering how weak some of the supposedly comic moments are, the drama does help ground the movie.

As befits a non-fiction book, you’ll find nuggets of information thrown at you, such as how males might gain weight along with their partner. There’s also a huge amount of product placement, as the filmmakers cash in on the marketing bonanza of the film.

Predictably, even though there is the stab at convention, traditional values are embraced at the end and the film never let us forget the miracle of pregnancy and motherhood/fatherhood. Chris Rock might diss it, but being a parent is rolled out as the key to happiness. Also, the word miracle is shoved at you so often you’ll think you’re reading some religious text.

There’s certainly nothing new here, and the whole setup is as old as childbirth. This is one film that you might want to abort on early. 

‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’ is showing in theatres everywhere