Review in a Hurry: Inspired by Heidi Murkoff‘s mega-selling manual, uneven What to Expect profiles five couples whose lives are upended by pregnancy. What to expect when you’re watching: attractive actors playing unrealistic characters, sitcom-y storylines with predictable outcomes and a heavy-handed family-values message. In other words, warmed-over baby formula.
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The Bigger Picture: If only this ill-conceived childbirth comedy had as many “hee-hees” and “ho-hos” as a Lamaze class. A Hollywood take on impending parenthood, What to Expect lacks enough laughs, but racks up the clichés—from peeing and puking gags to the last-act races to the hospital with push-push shrieking and cursing out the baby daddy.
The script spawns a range of baby-crazy characters: After years of trying, breastfeeding advocate Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) and milquetoast husband Gary (Ben Falcone) finally score a positive test strip, but Gary’s happiness is dampened when his ultra-competitive dad (tanorexic Dennis Quaid) impregnates his decades-younger trophy wife (Brooklyn Decker) with twins.
Meanwhile, fitness guru Jules (Cameron Diaz) and dance show star Evan (Glee‘s Matthew Morrison) try to balance celebrity and pregnancy, but mostly bicker about circumcision. Food truck lothario Marco (Chace Crawford) accidentally knocks up rival vendor Rosie (Anna Kendrick) after one date. And barren photographer Holly (Jennifer Lopez) convinces jittery hubby Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) they should adopt a child from Ethiopia.
Alex’s anxiety leads to What to Expect‘s most annoying sequences, as he joins a new-fathers support group—a stroller-pushing, high-fiving posse of daddy dudes who drink from baby bottles while blathering about minivans and calling each other “bro.” Ugh.
Granted, director Kirk Jones has gathered an appealing cast and keeps the slight, barely interlocking stories moving swiftly; otherwise, this two-hour gestation would feel like nine months. But too often the jokes are obvious, and the bits of drama could’ve been pulled from any sitcom’s Very Special Episode—with all to be resolved right after the commercial break.
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Studios keep popping out these star-laden ensemble comedies (New Year’s Day, et al.), but they just don’t deliver, not when the scripts are as labored as What to Expect.
The 180—a Second Opinion: The ladies look radiant—Diaz and J.Lo should pause to hawk skincare cosmetics in the same way the film product-places Delta Airlines and others. There’s also some beefcake on display, with shirtless scenes of Morrison and hunky Joe Manganiello.
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