Special to South Florida Times
In What to Expect When You’re Expecting — the film “adaptation” of the bestselling books of the same name — four couples become new parents:
Evan (Matthew Morrison) and Jules (Cameron Diaz) await the outcome of an unexpected pregnancy. Gary (Ben Falcone) and Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) are finally pregnant after two years of trying. Ramsey (Dennis Quaid), Gary’s dad, and his attractive young wife Skyler (Brooklyn Decker) are expecting twins. Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) and Holly (Jennifer Lopez) are expecting their adopted child from Ethiopia. Marco (Chace Crawford) and Rosie (Anna Kendrick) are thrown in for good fun.
With the script by Shauna Cross and Heather Hach we see another great example of a film based on a self-help book (Heidi Murkoff’s) geared toward women. But the storylines are too loosely woven as What to Expect unites the ensemble cast, more so the dads than the moms.
Alex joins the Dude Group of dads who love being dads and share experiences in daddydom. They include a nice mix of hapless dads: ringleader Vic (Chris Rock), eager Gabe (Rob Huebel), henpecked Craig (Thomas Lennon), Camaro-loving Patel (Amir Talai), with super sexy Davis (Joe Manganiello) thrown in for fun. The Dude Group with its two rules — don’t talk about what we talk about, and don’t judge — is hilarious. They obviously enjoy the joys of being a dad, and shed a positive light on fathers.
With director Kirk Jones making sure the men don’t look bad, all of the soon-to-be dads are great guys. There are no jerks among them, which is refreshing. Then again this is a film more geared toward women than men, and despite what men seem to think women say about them behind their backs, women like to see the good in men and love seeing good men onscreen.
Cross and Hach spent so much time making the dads likable, however, that they forgot to make the moms likable as well. The mommies are a little overbearing, especially when it comes to their babies. It’s natural for women to be seen as grizzlies when they feel their cubs are in danger and when it comes to making sure everything is right. But the only mothers in the film who aren’t overbearing are Holly, who isn’t actually pregnant, and Skyler, who’s too perky to be angry, except for when she thinks her “son” is being mistreated by his dad.
Cross and Hach showcase pregnant women in stock categories: the easy pregnancy, the crazy pregnancy, the workaholic pregnancy and the emotions of adoption. These characters make sense.
What doesn’t make sense is Marco and Rosie’s storyline. They have a one-night stand and Rosie becomes pregnant. Rosie loses the baby and they break up. The audience spends the next hour and a half watching them clumsily find their way back to each other. We could have done without that weightless story that has nothing to do with the theme.
There’s also the question of Davis’ purpose in this film. He’s the cool guy of the Dude Group until he ends up with a kid who has a heinous unibrow situation. Women love seeing Manganiello onscreen, but to sacrifice the story for man-candy isn’t a good enough reason.
Stories abound in this comedy and ode to women who dream of holding their own bundle of joy. It’s also a cautionary tale for women to make sure they know exactly what they’re asking for when they decide to have a baby.
It can’t be easy to write a feature-length film based on a series of self-help books — probably the equivalent of giving birth to a 15-pound baby. A woman’s job is never easy, however, and Cross and Hach should be commended for their effort. They just need to work on making their women less overbearing, and stick to plot points that make sense.
Photo: COURTESY OF Melissa Moseley
Babies Rule: Vic (Chris Rock) in What to Expect When You’re Expecting.