What to Expect When You’re Expecting (2012)

<strong class="MovieTitle">What to Expect When You’re Expecting</strong> (2012)

(On Cable TV, February 2013) When I say that What to Expect When You’re Expecting (the book) was one of my constant references in late 2011, I’m not just recommending the book, but also announcing that as a new parent I’m far more sympathetic to the film than other reviewers (or myself at an earlier age) could be.  Ensemble comedies with multiple plot-lines are a tricky bet: not all plotlines are equally interesting, not all characters get enough screen time to be fully defined, and not all subplots intersect in meaningful ways.  What to Expect does a heroic job at fashioning a comic narrative out of a reference work, and generally manages to avoid the pitfalls of ensemble comedies: All five pregnancy subplots are developed with sufficient detail, the characters are endearing in their own ways, and the interplay between them is often amusing.  It’s not all meaningless fluff throughout: the subplot involving Anna Kendrick remains a bit of a downer for much of the film, whereas the film’s biggest emotional punch unexpectedly comes from an adoption sequence (perhaps because, unlike the delivery scenes, it doesn’t cover very familiar ground) featuring a Jennifer Lopez fresh off the similarly-themed The Backup Plan. Otherwise, there’s plenty of good character work here, from Elizabeth Banks’ frustration-filled (yet most realistic) journey to Dennis Quaid’s happiest role to date.  But the standout performance title goes to Chris Rock, who elevates the film every time the hilarious “Dude’s Group” is featured onscreen.  Is What to Expect a formula-scripted film?  Of course.  Are the comic beats broad and obvious?  Most of the time.  Could it have been better?  Probably.  But will it appeal to anyone in its target demographic?  Well, that’s the whole point of the film.

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