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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING (Two Stars)
U.S.: Kirk Jones, 2012

If you’re pregnant, or if your significant other is pregnant, or if you’re just in the mood for another modern rom-com with an all-star cast, you may get a kick or two (sorry) out of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, a not-very-good movie with a pretty good cast. Based — or rather “inspired by” — a longtime best-selling pregnancy guide book by Heidi Murkoff, this is yet another example of why it seems so hard to make good or funny romantic comedies these days — although here the subject mostly deals with what happens after the heavy breathing has stopped and the consequences of parenthood loom large.

How do you make a movie out of a best-seller self-help guide about pregnancy? How do you make a movie out of a best-seller self-help guide about anything? (The only good example that comes to mind is Woody Allen’s 1972 all-star film of Dr. David Reuben’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).

But I doubt that “Hire Woody Allen” is an acceptable answer to those questions. Instead, director Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine and Nanny McPhee) and writers Shauna Cross (Whip It) and Heather Hach (Legally Blonde: The Musical) have decided to craft an ensemble comedy, mostly set in Atlanta, in which four couples go though pregancy problems, one other couple tackles adoption, and three of the twosomes (Cameron Diaz & Matthew Morrison, Elizabeth Banks & Ben Falcone, Brooklyn Decker & Dennis Quaid) amazingly wind up in the obstetrics ward all at the same time. (I refuse to even consider a spoiler alert for this.)

OH WELL, SPOILER ALERT

At the same time, astonishingly, the fourth couple (Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro) adopt a baby in Ethiopia, and the fifth couple (Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford) hold hands, stride through the hospital corridor and face the future (and any possible sequels),

END OF ALERT

The writers’ imaginations are fertile. (Sorry). This is not one of those anemic rom-coms with few characters and lots of clichés. This one has lots of characters and even more clichés. Banks plays pregnant Wendy, the author of a best-selling book on lactation and propreitor of a store called, I believe,  Breast Choice (or possibly The Breast is Yet to Come). Her squeamish hubby Gary (Falcone) is an overweight nebbish whose dad Ramsey (Quaid) is a rich exNASCAR champ with a young, gorgeous (and also pregnant) wife named Skyler (Decker). Diaz’ Jules runs a weight-loss clinic, and was impregnated by her partner on a TV dance contest show, Evan (Morrison, of “Glee“), aftere throwing up on the show. Lopez’ Holly is the prospective adoptive mother with husband Alex (Santoro); both of them play more for seriousness than for laughs. The result is the same.

The most convincing couple in the movie, which tells you how convincing the movie is, is the twosome of duelling food truck owners Rosie (Kendrick) and Marco (Crawford),who move from rivalry to a one night stand to prospective parenthood to…..Well, we’ll leave that to your bestseller-fed imagination.

Stranger than the fact that the stork (so to speak) ends up making so many deliveries to the same ward, and to people who know each other (sometimes), while apparently keeping tabs on events in Ethiopia, and cueing the music for Rosie and Marco, is the fact that some of the quintet, have baby-related occupations (baby photographer, breast-feeding manuals and the like) and can therefore dispnese wisdom from Ms. Murkoff’s book. Or the fact that four seeming househusbands, calling themselves the Dude’s Group –played by Chris Rock (spewing wisecracks like a late-night Vesuvius of wit) , Tom Lennon, Rob Heugel and Amir Talai — keep strolling through the movie, through a sunny park, looking like a mini-Wild Bunch with baby carriages and dispensing more baby wisdom — though they’re seemingly unable to keep one of their clumsier little kids, named Jordan (after Michael Jordan?) from getting continuously bonked on the head.

Nnne of this though is as peculiar or as funny as the episode in Allen‘s Everything…Sex, where Gene Wilder falls in love with a sheep. But maybe that’s one of the reasons why Allen isn’t writing or directing here..

Actually. this is kind of a sweet-tempered picture. You will have noted that it has a very good cast, But it matters little, since the script, following  the usual modern rom-com norm, is a poor one: hectic and preachy and clichéd and not every funny. (Rebel Wilson as Janice, Wendy’s friend, is the only consistent laugh-getter.) Diaz, Banks and Decker have all been given senwhat convincing prosthetitic tummies. And in the end, they all scream convincingly.

But the movie, which tries hard to leaven its sunny comedy and advice with a little darkness and realism, succeeds only in dredging up unwelcome memories (to me) of Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, and unpleasant thoughts of a possible “What to Expect When You’re Expecting: The Musical.” Is that likely? Is that conceivable? I’m afraid to ask.

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“Almodóvar–the first name is almost unnecessary–is a genius, is a flower, is a guiding light: the last, best son of Buñuel and so much more than that. His screenplays, which he directs with passion and fine care, have taught us about the exteriors of his native land and the interiors of our own hearts. From the early, manic experimental Super-8 work to the breakthrough Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, his titles are as evocative as most people’s screenplays. Yet for all their antic energy, Almodóvar’s films are deeply spiritual: watching his disturbing, mysterious, heart-rending Talk to Her is to understand, perhaps for the first time, the full meaning of grace. An Almodóvar screenplay is a running leap off a Gaudi balcony, it flips, soars, ascends, careens, tumbles, falls – always landing, astonishingly and astonished, on its feet.”
~ Howard A. Rodman, Announcing Almodóvar’s Jean Renoir Award

“I got a feeling I am going to win in the long run, but I want to be part of the zeitgeist, too. I want to support young girls who are in their 20s now and tell them: You’re not just imagining things. It’s tough. Everything that a guy says once, you have to say five times. Girls now are also faced with different problems. I’ve been guilty of one thing: After being the only girl in bands for 10 years, I learned—the hard way—that if I was going to get my ideas through, I was going to have to pretend that they—men—had the ideas. I became really good at this and I don’t even notice it myself. I don’t really have an ego. I’m not that bothered. I just want the whole thing to be good. And I’m not saying one bad thing about the guys who were with me in the bands, because they’re all amazing and creative, and they’re doing incredible things now. But I come from a generation where that was the only way to get things done. So I have to play stupid and just do everything with five times the amount of energy, and then it will come through.”
~ Björk to Jessica Hopper at Pitchfork