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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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Wilmington

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DEADLINE: How does a visualist feel about people watching your films on a phone or VOD?
REFN: It depends on what kind of movie you make. We had great success with Only God Forgives on multiple platforms in the U.S. Young people will decide how they see it, when they want to see it. Don’t try to fight it. Embrace it. That’s a wonderful opportunity. We’re at the most exciting time since the invention of the wheel, in terms of creativity because distribution and accessibility have changed everything. A camera is still a camera whether it’s digital or not; there’s still sound; an actor is an actor. Ninety-nine percent of what you do is going to be seen on a smart phone – I know this is the greatest thing ever made because it allows people to choose, watching what you do on this format or go into a theater and see it on a screen. That means more people than ever will see what I do, which is personally satisfying in terms of vanity. But you have to be able to adapt, to accept things in different order and length than we’re used to. We are in a very, very exciting time.
~ Nic Refn to Jen Yamato

DEADLINE: You mention Tarantino, who with Christopher Nolan and a few other giants, saved film stock from extinction. To him, showing a digital film in a theater is the equivalent of watching TV in public. Make an argument for why digital is a good film making canvas.
REFN: Costwise, it’s a very effective way for young people to start making movies. You can make your movie on an iPhone. It’s wonderful seeing how my own children use technology to enhance creativity. For me it’s a wonderful canvas. Sure, I love grain in film. I love celluloid. But I also like creativity. I like crayons, I like pencils, I like paint. It’s all relative. Technology is more inclusive. A hundred years ago when film was invented, it was an elitist club. Very few people got to make it, very few people controlled it and very few people owned it. A hundred years later, storytelling through images is everyone’s domain. It’s ultimate capitalism. There are no rules, and no barriers and no Hays Code. Where does this go in another hundred years? I don’t know but I would love to see it.
~ Nic Refn To Jen Yamato