What to Expect When You're Expecting review

SHE SAYS: What to Expect When You're Expecting will no doubt seem predictable to many people. Relationships? Babies? Case closed: a chickflick through and through. Gentlemen, disband at your leisure … oh you already have done. At the screening I attended, the one token male sat looking confused and disgruntled. But then, we all did; it was 9am and there wasn't even coffee.

Well, for my part, I'm really not that fussed about babies – but I am a woman. Hold that against me as you will when I say, straight up, that I really enjoyed this movie.

It has its mawkish moments and its cliches. Some of the plotlines could have done with a bit of pruning. It's certainly not perfect, and despite the different experiences of all its protagonists, it does seem to endorse the idea that inside every woman is a baby fiend waiting to break out. However, it is for the most part hugely enjoyable. And funny – there are so many great lines that I lost count trying to keep track of all the quotable snippets. There's an unobtrusive charm to their delivery, too, redolent of the Bridesmaids knack for weaving funny lines into believable conversations, rather than setting up a scene of dialogue on the basis of a joke.

The master of this of course is Falcone, who delivers a stellar performance as average Joe Gary trying not to compete with his wildly competitive father (an hilariously crass Quaid); but all the cast pretty much deliver on key, which is rarely the case with such ensemble movies. Despite the general levity of the tone, there are real moments of pain and loss, and while I had some quibbles with the way the film's handling of these moments, I never doubted the reality of the characters enacting them.

As can only be expected with such a multi-story narrative, it suffers somewhat from only-scraping-the-surface syndrome. A whole kaleidoscope of baby possibilities presents itself – planned, unplanned, adopted, lost – but most issues it fails to delve far into. The trauma of miscarriage, the terror of impending fatherhood, the resentment of the loving partner pushed into parenthood by his broody wife – we get a glimpse, but little insight. Given the personal nature of these very identifiable circumstances, it's easy to see how the film's light touch might rankle with a few. It's never flippant or dismissive: but it does all come out just a bit pat. Kudos though for entertaining no illusions about the reality of pregnancy, or the strenuousness of the actual birth.

The film has its flaws, but it also has much to recommend it. With a bit of trimming and some tightening of the script, it could have been really good. As it was, I'd see it again to catch all those gems of muttered asides, and to heed the wisdom of the Dudes Group in all their pram-pushing glory.

HE SAYS: ★½ Now, as a married man under 40 I am not ashamed to say that I do enjoy a rom-com. Even the ensemble cast ones with loads of stories going on at the same time. I have even voluntarily sat through both Valentines Day and New Years Eve (yeah, I know, shut up ... no-one’s perfect) so wasn’t exactly dreading the thought of What To Expect When You’re Expecting.

Iin fact, after seeing a few clips and trailer, I thought it looked like it had potential to be quite amusing or at the very least an enjoyable distraction. Now, my wife is not a fan of the genre so her reaction to the trailers and TV spots was: “You’re not going to make me watch that, are you?” She is the marketing nightmare for Hollywood films like this.

So the film starts off with us being introduced to various couples and their situations and the various characters revolving around the central characters like half-arsed satellites orbiting each Planet Biege. A-list names get a “Isn’t that that person off...” co-star – eg, Diaz gets "that teacher off Glee", Banks gets "Air Marshal John from Bridesmaids" and "that annoying flatmate from Bridesmaids" as her assistant, hot Kendrick gets "that guy off Gossip Girl" whose relationship is never at any point anything but feeling forced from an acting chemistry point of view which is awkward to watch but not in the way it is meant to be ... you get where I’m going here. There are more but I would bore you to death with the Venn Diagram of Hollywood grabbing who was available to shoot some scenes for a few weeks.

One thing I found particularly annoying is the relationship between Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro where they decide to adopt a baby from Ethiopia, which is great and I wholeheartedly support adoption, but when they get there to pick up their new son it was SUCH a sanitised "tender" Hollywood moment that I honestly felt it was like a pisstake of The Lion King, lacking any element of authenticity or realism. I didn’t feel Ethiopia at all, all I got was "filming it somewhere dusty with people that would pass for Ethopian caregivers doing something symbolic". That actually offended me with its lack of honesty or true and sincere sensitivity.

That said,  I don’t think the target audience will  care about any of that because JLo gets to hold a baby and be a "mommy" ... right? Moving on... Quaid is an ex-sport star older father with plenty of lead in his pipe and younger trophy wife he has knocked up. There is some comedy here that did raise a titter from me including the dynamic between the new wife, Decker, calling her his mum and him her son ... but that gets old quite quickly. Also, as with many of the bigger name cast here, he is way above films like this. Did he need to money? Did he piss his agent off and this was payback? Come on Dennis, seriously? One thing that really started to get on my nerves was that characters in the movie keep reading the original book that the film is inspired by, and it keeps appearing on bookshelves or in the background somewhere. Oooh, how meta? NO, IT IS NOT META! I’m calling marketing bullshit!

So Cheryl Cole, everyone’s talking about her big Hollywood debut. Cheryl Cole is in this for about 90 seconds at a time at the beginning and end of the movie as a talent show judge and maybe once or twice for a few seconds on a TV in the background. I wouldn’t even call it acting to be honest as she’s just there physically but looks dead behind the eyes. This is a film with such bit part star quality, I am joking of course, that one of the other judges has to be identified as "Taboo from The Black Eyed Peas" ... if you need to wave the flag that hard to get signpost the point of reference ... maybe they should have cast someone else? The Hoff would do it. The Hoff will do ANYTHING!

There are redeeming features here though for me which stopped my tearing my genitals off "just in case" ... the Dude Group dynamic works nicely and is well cast with some of the best lines in the whole movie. Certainly for guys just seeing Rock, Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon etc interacting and  chatting guy stuff while looking after the kids in the park is very amusing and there is banter there that any man who is a dad or knows someone who is a dad will get. Plus there’s nice interplay with the single, hot and shag-happy buff bloke Joe Manganiello, aka "that guy off True Blood" is fun. Also, the film not only namechecks  Margaritaville but also even gets some Jimmy Buffet on the soundtrack.

Okay, so not many people will give the slightest toss but to me, that stopped me wanting to punch myself in the junk at times. The thing that made me genuinely laugh out loud? Right at the end as the credits roll there is an incident with a can and child. Men, if your wife/girlfriend/partner takes you to see this they probably want to have a baby/adopt/are trying to get you to leave them by running away scared. If you do make it home together, double bag it men as she’s probably ovulating and she wants your sperm!

What to Expect When You're Expecting at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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