No matter how carefully you plan and how diligently you read books like What to Expect When You’re Expecting, pregnancy is guaranteed to be different from whatever you think it is going to be. I wish I could say the same for this movie.
These all-star ensemble cast mash-ups are beginning to feel as thin as the old television show, “Love American Style.” It doesn’t help that there isn’t one pregnancy cliche that is overlooked, no matter how many dozens of movies, sit-coms, and cute greeting cards it has already been done and re-done and re-re-done in before.
There is a celebrity fitness coach and reality dance competition show contestant (Cameron Diaz) who becomes unexpectedly pregnant just a few months into a romance with her dance partner (“Glee’s” Matthew Morrison). There is a loving but financially strapped couple hoping to qualify for an Ethiopian adoption (Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro). The husband is nervous about being a father so after his wife offers him a very special sex act to motivate him he starts to spend Saturdays with “the Dudes,” a bunch of stroller-pushing, Snugli-wearing, diaper-bag toting dads whose idea of supporting each other is a Fight Club-style commitment to this decade’s most vapid catchphrase: “no judging.”
Elizabeth Banks plays a woman with ideas about pregnancy so idealized that she has a store devoted to breast-feeding (“The Breast Choice”) and has even written a children’s book about it that is creepier than the infamous Time Magazine cover. She and her dentist husband (Ben Falcone, “Bridesmaids'” Air Marshall Jon) have been trying to get pregnant for years. He is also about to become a big brother. His father is a loudmouth NASCAR champ (Dennis Quaid) married to a decades-younger bride (bright spot Brooklyn Decker) who is pregnant with twins. And there is a pair of rival food truck chefs (Anna Kendrick of “Up in the Air” and Chase Crawford of “Gossip Girl”), whose impulsive encounter apparently did not permit consideration of the importance of birth control.
The movie reads like an extended Caroline Hax “Tell Me About It” column of petty complaints so stunningly self-involved, irresponsible, and selfish that what the movie needs most is a representative of Child Protective Services to take all the babies to better homes. This is one long, loud slog through morning sickness (barfing on live television!), twins, an iPhone app that maps fertility cycles, stretch marks, debates over circumcision, baby names, and combatting the feeling that everyone is doing it better. Serious problems like pregnancy loss and financial concerns are handled as though there is a laugh track and trivial issues like a baby shower are handled as though they actually matter. The big moment comes when Banks’ character confesses to a bunch of future mothers that — insight alert! — “making a human being is really hard.” In yet another tiresome cliche, the clip of her “honest” meltdown goes viral. And then we get to see everyone in labor, making “Exorcist” faces (except for the trophy wife, who sails through labor as she has through the entire pregnancy). “But I typed out my birth plan!” one of them whines cluelessly when it turns out that delivery is not going as she wanted it to. It is another measure of the movie’s disregard of its audience that we go back to the Dudes so they can reverse everything they said the first time. It is not that they have learned anything. The movie is just lazy enough to hope some warm “parenting is wonderful” comments will erase the synthetic waste of celluloid (pixels?) that has gone before. No such luck.
Parents should know that this movie has comic and serious references to reproductive issues including infertility and pregnancy loss and some strong language
Family discussion: Which of these couples will make the best parents? How do you know? Ask your family for some of their pregnancy-related stories.
If you like this, try: “He’s Just Not That Into You” and “Knocked Up”