Get ready for the latest ensemble film featuring notable actors all sharing the same screen.
It’s the popular trend in Hollywood these days, but What to Expect When You’re Expecting is actually not directed by Gary Marshall.
“Wendy” (Elizabeth Banks) and “Gary” (Ben Falcone) are an interesting couple. He’s a dentist, she’s a breast-feeding advocate who owns her own store catering to breast-feeding mothers and she’s just written a children’s book on the subject.
So focused are they on getting pregnant, her smart-phone is set to go off when she’s ovulating. When it does, no matter what the couple’s other obligations might be, they’re going to try to get pregnant that minute.
Eventually, they succeed. However, Gary is living in the shadow of his father “Ramsey” (Dennis Quaid), a legendary race car driver with the obligatory trophy wife “Skyler” (Brooklyn Decker) who is 30 or so years younger than he.
Ramsey has been one-upping Gary all of Gary’s life and the announcement that he’s going to make Ramsey a grandfather is no different. See, Ramsey and Skyler have an announcement of their own. She’s also pregnant. With twins! One-upped again, Gary is not happy at this turn of events.
“Jules” (Cameron Diaz) hosts her own TV weight-loss program and also happens to be appearing on a celebrity dance contest show. She and her partner “Evan” (Matthew Morrison) are about to do their final dance and hopefully win the season-long contest.
She looked a little green before coming out on-stage and after the dance is over, she and her partner win. She is handed the trophy, and promptly barfs into it. “I hope she’s not pregnant” the host ad-libs, but apparently her affair with Evan has left her in exactly that state.
Gary frequents a food truck (did we mention most of this takes place in Atlanta?) that’s owned and operated by “Marco” (Chace Crawford), whose food truck competition includes the rig owned by “Rosie” (Anna Kendrick) and naturally not only is Gary the son of Ramsey, Rosie is the cousin of Ramsey’s wife Skyler. Marco and Rosie will have their own adventures in the world of pregnancy although things will not go as well as they might have.
“Holly” (Jennifer Lopez) is a photographer who shoots baby portraits on the side when she’s not at her day job at an aquarium, diving into the tanks in scuba gear to take photos of the marine creatures that live there. She’s spent all of the 401(k) money of her husband Alex on unsuccessful in vitro fertilization attempts and now she wants to buy a house and adopt a child from Ethopia.
Of course she sets all that in motion, not knowing that budgetary constraints are going to cost her that day job at the aquarium. She sends Alex to “the boys” to prepare him for his impending fatherhood.
The boys are a group of four fathers of young children, including Chris Rock and they share their experiences and promise not to talk about what they discuss with outsiders, and not to judge. Some of the best humor within the film comes from this group’s interactions with one another, Alex and their friend Davis, who puts the N and the other letters in narcissistic. Davis will get his own surprise from a trip he took.
All of these people and all of the major events in their lives intertwine. Jules ends up in Atlanta because Gary was a guest on her program at one point and she’s there to film a follow-up. Her pregnancy is so advanced that when she collapses during filming of that sequence with Gary, she’s advised to remain in Atlanta and give birth there. All three of the pregnant women will give birth on the same day that Holly and Alex will formally adopt their child in Ethopia.
If this sounds contrived, it is. But this film manages to make you laugh and at points, make you think. Wendy is chosen to speak to a crowd at an expo about pregnancy and she delivers a spot-on, ad-lib talk that goes viral on YouTube. The characters manage to grow and have story arcs, even if they aren’t brilliant in their performances. They are all better than good and Lopez in particular manages to show off that great potential she has and doesn’t deliver on most of the time. The roll on your floor belly laughing of a Bridesmaids isn’t here, but you will laugh, titter and enjoy yourself.