What to Expect When You're Expecting is a Valentine's Day take on impending parenthood. Couples cope with pregnancies, planned and unplanned, adoption and the epic change coming to their lives.
It's wafer-thin, but it has plenty of laughs — many involving pregnant women's bodily functions, the rest from Chris Rock. But this film from the director of Waking Ned Devine is touching. Kirk Jones and the screenwriters found real pathos in adapting Heidi Murkoff's self-help book, dubbed America's "pregnancy bible."
Elizabeth Banks plays Wendy, a self-help book author, a pregnancy "expert" who has been unable to get pregnant. Until now. She and hubby Gary (Ben Falcone) are ready for "this miracle." And then her husband's ex-race car driver dad (Dennis Quaid) and his trophy bride (Brooklyn Decker) one-up them. They're expecting twins.
Anna Kendrick is a food-truck chef whose one-night tumble with a high school flame (Chace Crawford) put her in a family way.
Cameron Diaz is a TV fitness guru newly pregnant with her Celebrity Dance Factor partner (Matthew Morrison of TV's Glee). She found out she was pregnant by throwing up on live TV. But she figures as fit as she is, she can do this pregnancy thing in her spare time.
And Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro are buying the house and prepping for an adoption. Santoro's Alex is the guy his wife sends to a "dudes group": daddies with toddlers who trundle their kids through Los Angeles' parks. And that's where daddy Rock presides as Vic.
"Ready? There's no such thing as ready," Vic bellows. "You just jump on a moving train and you try not to die."
He and his crew make a lot of death jokes about life after baby. And about the man's loss of parity.
In montages, couples visit obstetricians or explain their states of mind to friends or colleagues. Couples bicker over matters big — circumcision, the baby's name — and small. Some struggle to endure the strains of unplanned pregnancy.
Every so often, the "dudes" gather to dispense more warnings to Alex.
Then we return to Wendy, who has built a career of romanticizing this experience but who has no more clue about what she's facing than her daft assistant (Australian comic and Bridesmaids roommate Rebel Wilson, who is out there). If Rock is the comic voice of wisdom, Banks is its heart. She brings pathos and humor to a character who is hell-bent on loving this circle-of-life thing, until she's overwhelmed.
Interestingly, Lopez has children and plays a woman who can't conceive. Banks, playing a woman determined to love pregnancy, had her baby through a surrogate. Kendrick, Diaz and model-turned-actress Decker aren't moms — yet.
That doesn't hurt the film, a frothy little romp through pregnancy. It's choppy and episodic, and funny — especially when Rock, a veteran dad in real life — holds court. The overarching message is moving and amusing: Expecting a baby? You have no idea what to expect.