The enormous success of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and its, er, literary offspring was in large part due to the timing of its debut, which paralleled the beginning of mommy-baby chic. Not only were women shedding old-fashioned ideas about maternity and childbirth, but having a little one—in just the right stroller or, even better, a Baby Bjorn worn by the baby daddy was so . . . radical. By the time Demi Moore showed off her blooming profile on the cover of Vanity Fair—a pose copied recently by the uncreative photog who shot Jessica Simpson for Elle—it was apparent, pregnancy was the new LBD.
It’s rather weird that What To Expect has made it to the big screen as a group comedy of sorts. Set in Atlanta, the movie revolves around several couples who are about to take the bungee jump into parenthood and all the crazy sexy uncool things that happen along the way. Be prepared for lots of jokes about weight gain, swollen ankles, swollen boobs, gas, bodily fluids, sex . . . and how men adapt. The cast is bright and amiable, and includes Elizabeth Banks as a children’s book author (who penned a kids’ book about breasts) whose experience running a store geared toward all things maternity doesn’t quite equate to her own pregnancy, and Cameron Diaz as a fitness guru with, not surprisingly, body issues. Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro provide the movie’s only, um, local color, which is underscored by the fact that the two plan to adopt an Ethiopian tot. The best moments belong to Dennis Quaid as a Nascar driver whose hot wife (Brooklyn Decker), pregnant with twins, is the epitome of blossoming, vibrant, radiant motherhood. In short, everything the other moms-to-be hate.
There are gentle laughs, and then better ones when Chris Rock appears as the head of the Dude Group, the fathers’ “play group” of sorts that meets on the playground and helps wend the way for hapless newbies who don’t know the difference between Earth’s Best and Gerber. Rock’s character Vic gets the movie’s best line, when he wonders where all the people of color are, considering that the story takes place in racially diverse Atlanta—but that’s another movie. What to Expect tips its pinkies into the kiddie pool of incredulity, as in can you believe that these people are going through such lengths just to have what they think is the appropriate pregnancy/childbirth/recovery?
At the same time, it’s too wedded to its expectation that people going to see it are of that ilk which relies on The Mozart Effect and peruses the toy shops for activities that “experts” deem brain challenging for little (insert stupid name with too many vowels that supposedly signifies originality). The filmmakers certainly don’t want to offend the legions of women who dutifully subscribe to FitPregnancy and puree their own baby food, but so much of the potential humor lacks punch or teeth. In fact, in that way, the movie is more like the mewling newborns whose arrivals it pretends to herald, with the occasional attention-getter of a good holler.