My sister Jenny, who’s the mother of three children and is still nursing the third, accompanied me to a preview screening of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. How realistic was the movie? Midway through the film, she leaned over to me and whispered, “My milk just dropped down.”
I didn’t even know what that meant. I don’t have kids myself, and my intention was to write a single guy’s reaction to the movie—maybe a cultural critique of whatever new feminine mystiques were portrayed. But What to Expect When You’re Expecting caught me off-guard: it’s kind of like a baby itself, lovable in its lack of ambition.
You want a film that tackles the tougher realities of love and parenting, stay home and stream Rabbit Hole or Kramer vs. Kramer or Precious even Juno. What to Expect director Kirk Jones, working from a screenplay by Shauna Cross and Heather Hach, aspires simply to tell a few pregnancy stories that have happy endings. There’s just enough tension and ambiguity to make the characters empathetic, and more than enough charm and humor to keep spectators engaged.
The film follows four different pregnancies and one adoption, but there’s not so much plot that I won’t veer into spoilerville if I try to write more than one paragraph about it. So here’s the scorecard: you have a thirtysomething couple who have finally conceived after years of trying (Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone), that guy’s dad and his young new wife who’s also expecting (Dennis Quaid and Brooklyn Decker), a twentysomething couple who own competing food trucks and conceive through an act of what may or may not be hate sex (Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford), a celebrity couple who hook up and knock up while dancing together on a reality TV show (Cameron Diaz and Matthew Morrison), and a relatively poor couple (they have to rent instead of own) who are facing uncertainty that’s not purely economic (Rodrigo Santoro and an impressively glowing Jennifer Lopez).
The core story is Banks’s and Falcone’s, and both are ridiculously charming—as, really, is this entire cast in a film that has no real villains except bad luck. Ancillary characters, including a real-talking dad played by Chris Rock and a retail clerk played by a scene-stealing Rebel Wilson (“Can I take my 15-minute Facebook break?”), provide above-average comic relief. The film percolates along like the well-crafted entertainment it is, and it has enough heart that by the end I had to get tough with myself about not being allowed to cry during a movie I was supposed to be there to make fun of.
The movie is “based on” (though “inspired by” or “franchised from” might be more accurate) the eponymous guidebook, and based on Jenny’s indifferent appraisal of the book, the movie might actually be better-written. Like the book, though, the film gives comfort and lays out some of the issues you’re likely to find yourself dealing with when in The Family Way. They made that movie too, but it was about the easy part of procreation.