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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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Johanna Lynch on: Wilmington on DVDs: The File on Thelma Jordon; Adua and her Friends; Bullet to the Head

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best new dvd releases on: Wilmington on Movies and DVDs: Beauty and the Beast. Movie: Truesdale/Wise. DVD: Cocteau/Clement.

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Tsangari: With my next film, White Knuckles, it comes with a budget — it’s going to be a huge new world for me. As always when I enter into a new thing, don’t you wonder how it’s going to be and how much of yourself you are going to have to sacrifice? The ballet of all of this. I’m already imaging the choreography — not of the camera, but the choreography of actually bringing it to life. It is as fascinating as the shooting itself. I find the producing as exciting as the directing. The one informs the other. There is this producer-director hat that I constantly wear. I’ve been thinking about these early auteurs, like Howard Hawks and John Ford and Preston Sturges—all of these guys basically were hired by the studio, and I doubt they had final cut, and somehow they had films that now we can say they had their signatures.  There are different ways of being creative within the parameters and limitations of production. The only thing you cannot negotiate is stupidity.
Filmmaker: And unfortunately, there is an abundance of that in the world.
Tsangari: This is the only big risk: stupidity. Everything else is completely worked out in the end.
~ Chevalier‘s Rachel Athina Tsangari

“The middle-range movies that I was doing have largely either stopped being made, or they’ve moved to television, now that television is a go-to medium for directors who can’t get work in theatricals, because there are so few theatricals being made. But also with the new miniseries concept, you can tell a long story in detail without having to cram it all into 90 minutes. You don’t have to cut the characters and take out the secondary people. You can actually put them all on a big canvas. And it is a big canvas, because people have bigger screens now, so there’s no aesthetic difference between the way you shoot a movie and the way you shoot a TV show.

“Which is all for the good. But what’s happened in the interim is that theatrical movies being a spectacle business are now either giant blockbuster movies that run three hours—even superhero movies run three hours, they used to run like 58 minutes!—and the others, which are dysfunctional family independent movies or the slob comedy or the kiddie movie, and those are all low-budget. So the middle ground of movies that were about things, they’re just gone. Or else they’re on HBO. Like the Bryan Cranston LBJ movie, which years ago would’ve been made for theaters.

“You’ve got people like Paul Schrader and Walter Hill who can’t get their movies theatrically distributed because there’s no market for it. So they end up going to VOD, and VOD is a model from which no one makes any money, because most of the time, as soon as they get on the site, they’re pirated. So the whole model of the system right now is completely broken. And whether or not anybody’s going to try to fix, or if it even can be fixed, I don’t know. But it’s certainly not the same business that I got into in the ’70s.”
~ Joe Dante

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