What to expect from the movie based on Heidi Murkoff’s pregnancy best-seller “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”?
Expect interlocking stories of varying interest about five couples played by a mix of A-list stars and small-screen favorites — think “He’s Just Not That Into You,” “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve.” Expect that two hours will feel like nine months, and that before it’s over you’ll be screaming for an epidural to your brain.
Jules (Cameron Diaz) is a television fitness expert who has been knocked up by her dancing partner (Matthew Morrison of “Glee”) during a stint on “Celebrity Dance Factor”; she’s the “over 35” mother.
In vitro fertilization has failed Holly (Jennifer Lopez), a photographer specializing in portraits of babies and pregnant women, so she and her husband, Alex (Rodrigo Santoro), have decided to adopt an Ethiopian child.
Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) is a lactation expert whose long struggle to get pregnant has finally ended, but her husband, Gary (Ben Falcone), finds himself one-upped by his competitive father (Dennis Quaid), a retired NASCAR champion whose trophy wife (Brooklyn Decker) is pregnant with twins.
The teens get Chace Crawford and Anna Kendrick as rival food-truck chefs suffering a consequence of a one-night stand endemic to dramas found on ABC Family.
There follows morning sickness, incontinence, crankiness, male weight gain and arguments over circumcision. Blessedly no one suffers Rh incompatibility, endometriosis or an incompetent cervix. One mother will be confined to bed rest, one will require an emergency C-section and one will miscarry. Good times.
For laughs — and this movie from “Nanny McPhee” director Kirk Jones sure needs them — Alex joins a “Dude’s Group” with secretive “Fight Club” rules to prepare himself for fatherhood. Led by Vic (Chris Rock), who has named his several children after athletes (and whose eldest, Jordan, is particularly clumsy), the men push their strollers while pining for the life led by their jet-setting bachelor friend Davis (an amusing Joe Manganiello of “True Blood”).
The men in the audience also get Sports Illustrated model Decker (much better here than in “Battleship”) and a pointless golf-cart chase between Gary and his father that results in the destruction of a tacky homage to Jimmy Buffett.
Banks and Lopez fare best as women longing for motherhood while supporting the maternity-industrial complex; if only Shauna Cross and Heather Hach’s screenplay had exploited this beyond its brief visit to a trade show.
But the problem with these films is that not enough time is spent on any one story, and so the characters remain archetypes, all racing to the same Atlanta hospital at the same time.
“They say when it’s over you forget the whole thing,” says Wendy in the throes of labor.
Just like this movie.