I’m sensing a trend. Last month “Think Like a Man,” an ensemble rom com based on Steve Harvey’s best selling book defied expectations and knocked “The Hunger Games” from the number one slot. This month “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” hits theatres hoping for the same kind of success.
Both are based on books, but that’s nothing new. What is new is that they are both based on self-help books. Hollywood has mined the genre before. “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)” and “Sex and the Single Girl” but it’s been years since the self-improvement aisle at the bookstore provided Hollywood with hits.
“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” follows several couples on their journey to the delivery room. Here’s the scorecard:
Couple Number One: Breast milk specialist Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) and husband Gary, (the dentist who does ‘Lil Wayne’s grillwork, played by Ben Falcone), have been trying for years to get pregnant but it doesn’t take until some hanky-panky after a screening of “Dirty Dancing.”
Couple Number Two: Gary’s dad, Ramsey (Dennis Quaid), an über competitive former race car driver is expecting twins with his trophy wife, the much younger practitioner of Pregerlates, Skylar (Brooklyn Decker).
Almost Couple Number Three: Marco (Chance Crawford), a chef who runs The Big Pig food truck (Slogan? “Have a porkgasm!”), makes bacon on a one-night stand with Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and must live with the consequences.
Couple Number Four: Photographer Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and boyfriend Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) adopt a child from Ethiopia.
Couple Number Five: Jules (Cameron Diaz), a reality show personal trainer and contestant on Celebrity Dance Factor has an affair with her dancing instructor Evan (Matthew Morrison) and gets morning sickness on the set of the show.
That’s a lot of characters, each representing a different aspect of pregnancy and the lead-up to childbirth. Add to that a Greek Chorus of dads (Thomas Lennon, Chris Rock and others) who provide comedic relief and advice like, “Babies can smell fear. Like bears and wives.”
I expect Cameron Diaz and JLo to pop up in this kind of rom com, but Anna Kendrick, who has chalked up great performances in “Up in the Air” and “50/50” has set the bar higher than this. Diaz does a twist on her often-used underwear dance and strips down to a frilly dance outfit to do her dance number but Kendrick seems to realize this material is beneath her and watching her drift through this material lessened my appreciation of the whole thing. Her scenes aren’t painful at all, she’s too good an actress for that, but my point is, she’s too good an actress to be in this.
As for its worth as a self-help movie, it does raise some questions—to circumcise or not to circumcise, that is the question—but for a movie based on an advise book it provides little in the way of helpful or useful information.
Aside from skirting around any real pregnancy advice, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is a comedy, although to be fair it is as funny as you might expect a comedy based on a self-help book to be. I might have enjoyed this movie more if I had been given an epidural first.