Thursday, May 24, 2012

What To Expect When You're Expecting

Work It!

Cameron Diaz has larger and more pronounced biceps than I do. That's the first thing I actually noticed in this film when her character got introduced as a weight loss celebrity host taking part in one of the many celebrity dance off reality shows, with rumours of her character Jules' on-off relationship with her dance partner Evan (Matthew Morrison) being amongst the talk of the town. It's an interesting way actually to introduce the rest of the characters, or caricatures even, in this film, made up of distinct story arcs involving a total of five different couples, and their journey to parenthood.

Written by Shauna Cross and Heather Hach, based upon a pregnancy guide written by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, What To Expect When You're Expecting turned out to be less instructional, but very much narrative, which is a pity since its title alone may have suggested some valuable lessons that can be gleaned from the fortunes, or misfortunes, as experienced by the characters, that we can at least pick up some tips on what I would think to be a period of topsy turvy, emotionally and physically charged time for any couple to go through before being able to welcome their bundle of joy. And I suppose depending on everyone's character traits, these nine months would either be a pleasure, or torture.

There's Jules and Evan who find that their fame and celebrity status could perhaps be a hindrance in a time where they should be making critical decisions together, Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) who cannot conceive and are taking some steps to adopt a child from Ethiopia despite her losing a job that provides for a steady income and his fear of not being ready to accept a stranger into his life, Skyler (Brooklyn Decker) the trophy wife of veteran race car driver Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) who seem unfazed and all too excited by the upcoming addition to their family, Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) and Gary (Ben Falcone) who finally managed to get Wendy onto the road of pregnancy but with Gary having father issues, almost always overshadowed by his more flamboyant dad Ramsey, and finally, Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and her one night stand with Marco (Chace Crawford), in here to provide for a narrative thread on having a child out of wedlock.

Director Kirk Jones seemed adamant in wanting to cover plenty of spectrum in his film about the series of milestones, cheers and tears that couples go through during the trimesters, but somewhat opted to compartmentalize the ensemble cast largely into their own arcs, rarely crossing over into another storyline other than to make little background appearances that don't contribute to anything meaningful. Of course the exception to this rule belonged to the characters of Ramsey, Skyler, Wendy and Gary given that they're all related by blood or by law. Despite many films of late that are made up of ensemble cast, this one felt like it had assembled a cool team only for them to play within their own little sandbox, which is a pity. Moreover, most characters become caricatures once you find out their game plan, and from then on everything collapsed into predictability.

The content didn't find moments to move anyone, and what's worse were the jokes that didn't really take off. Most of them came from Rebel Wilson's employee at The Breast Choice boutique owned by Wendy, with her character of Janice being somewhat dim-witted and saying just about the most random of things just to try and elicit laughter. Then there's the Dude Group headed by Chris Rock's Vic, made up of friends who have become dads, where they can hang out together with their kids and fellow peers in order to bitch about their entire experience as new dads, and to induct new would be dads into their group, sharing what little of their experience in fatherhood. Funny at times, Rock seemed a little bit restrained, and the jokes here never really took off.

Ultimately, the themes important in the film revolve around family ties that matter. Not all story arcs got equal treatment, where Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford's involvement seemed too fleeting and more suited to a typical romantic comedy about boy meets girl rather than boy and girl becomes dad and mom, also due to the course that their story arc took. You'll feel the long run time as scenes continue to drag and glancing at your watch will become a habit. Perhaps if this was trimmed a little, not be bloated for the sake of (perhaps to mirror the changes felt), and actually have some educational value, would it have become a better film. Other than to inspire one to work on those biceps and abs to resemble those carried off beautifully by Diaz.

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