After a gestation period far outdoing anything the animal kingdom can offer, Hollywood has turned a quarter-of-a-century-old self-help guide - Heidi Murkoff (opens in new tab)’s bestselling 1984 pregnancy manual (opens in new tab) What to Expect When You’re Expecting (opens in new tab) - into a slick comedy-drama that’s strictly by the book when it comes to wringing laughs, sighs and tears from a contrived set-up.
If you’ve seen those vapid ensemble showcases Valentine’s Day (opens in new tab) and New Year’s Eve (opens in new tab), you’ll know the formula: a film following a diverse bunch of characters through a series of loosely interlinked stories. Here, it’s five expectant couples going through the trials and joys of impending parenthood in present-day Atlanta.
Cameron Diaz’s TV fitness guru Jules and her celebrity dance show partner Evan (Glee actor Matthew Morrison looking like the runner-up in a Justin Timberlake lookalike competition) get taken by surprise by pregnancy, as do food-truck-owning rivals Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford) following a one-night stand.
Then there’s Elizabeth Banks’s baby expert Wendy, a first-time mom-to-be whose rosy view of pregnancy doesn’t match the hormonal reality; and her tubby, timid dentist husband Gary (Ben Falcone), forever trying to emerge from the shadow of his ultra-competitive dad, Dennis Quaid’s ex-racing driver Ramsey. Just to underscore his alpha-male superiority, Ramsey’s trophy wife Skyler (Brooklyn Decker) is expecting twins.
Finally, Jennifer Lopez’s photographer Holly, unable to conceive, is going down the adopt-an-African-child route, prompting cold-footed husband Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) to seek guidance from the ‘Dudes Group’, a support group of frazzled, hen-pecked dads led by motor-mouth Chris Rock.
The cast perform with gusto, with Banks the best of the bunch, but the material they’ve been given is bland and predictable. As rom-coms go, this one is definitely stillborn.
On general release from Friday 25th May.
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A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.
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