Kirk Jones’s “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (inspired by the bestselling book by Heidi Murkoff) continues in the popular trend of romantic ensemble comedies (a recent disastrous example “New Year’s Eve”) that exploits—more like propagandizes—a particular subject. “What to Expect” is about (guess!) babies. It’s a relatively, pain-free movie. Jones’s direction is breezy, the cinematography by Xavier Perez Grobet is polished and glossy, like a magazine, and it features plenty of pretty, well off, mostly white characters and their “issues.”
The movie focuses on four main couples and then there are a bunch supporting players. I don’t really want to go into all of them and their different situations but the cast features a number of well-known actors like Jenifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Chris Rock, Ben Falcone, Matthew Morrison (from TV’s “Glee”), Dennis Quad, Chase Crawford and more. All of them are dealing with babies (well more like pregnancy) one way or the other, whether it’s a miscarriage, an adoption, or a pregnancy that wasn’t planned.
And I give all of them credit for at least trying to make something happen, even though they’re destined to go down the same forced path set up from the beginning, and there are a few moments here and there that work. Funny moments: There’s a club of baby daddies that meet and walk around in the park together; or serious ones: Kendrick’s character has the miscarriage, and the wordless scene where we see her finding out in the hospital is touching.
Overall, however, the film feels so muddled and contrived. Even at four main couples that’s still too much. Jones and his pair of writers, Shauna Cross and Heather Hach, could have taken just one or even two of those storylines and left it at that. But no, we have to get all of the angles. And for how much there is in the picture there isn’t much in the way of serious conflict, besides Kendrick’s miscarriage.
Sure there are a few small hurdles here and there but they all get resolved fairly quickly and smoothly. And I must stress again, these are all mostly white, pretty and relatively well off characters living in the best apartment or home in the prettiest sector of their designated romantic comedy city settings. Not much is at stake. Where’s the middle class couple who are actually struggling?
I imagine “What to Expect” will be a fine date night movie, whether that is in the theater, or a rental at home. As far as fulfilling expectations for its target audience it does (although you would really be better off renting another, better rom-com). On the other hand, if a montage of baby deliveries by four different couples isn’t your cup of tea, then I’d strongly urge you to take a pass.