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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (review)

What to Expect When You're Expecting Cameron Diaz red light

Baby Blues

Things I learned about human pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood from What to Expect When You’re Expecting:

• If a woman vomits, she’s pregnant. (Of course, this is true of all movies ever made, ever.)

• The only women who have to worry about miscarriage are those who conceive as a result of a one-night stand, and who may be ambivalent about pregnancy and motherhood anyway. This is good, because:
Smushsmortion need not be discussed or even cross a woman’s mind when she finds herself pregnant unexpectedly and perhaps unwantedly. Which means that:

• All children are wanted, and no accidental pregnancy is ever cause for alarm or worry. Women are never ever ambivalent about pregnancy or motherhood (never mind the above caveat). Hoorah!

• No children are born with birth defects or serious medical conditions. Which is a blessing, because:

• Finances are never an issue when it comes to pregnancy. Everyone is easily able to afford all the many upper-middle-class accoutrements of pregnancy and raising a child, from fancy strollers to adequate health care. Any small financial setbacks are quickly remedied, mostly by sheer luck.

• Fathers are terrible caretakers of children, and are so unable to distinguish their own offspring from that of other, nongenetically related people that they easily mistake other children for their own.

• Men never want to be fathers, but as soon as fatherhood is forced upon them, they morph into parents who may be considered “fantastic,” even given the caveat above.

• If you get pregnant, everyone you know or are related to will get pregnant at the same time.

• Women who tell the unbeautiful truth about pregnancy — ie, that it is not the precise sort of pap-and-sap that this film depicts it to be, and involves actual uncomfortable changes to a woman’s body — are strange and awkward, and probably crazy.

I could go on…

Holy baby with the bathwater, What to Expect When You’re Expecting sets a new low bar of awfulness, self-centeredness, and unreality. Hollywood has long had a policy of focusing like a laser on the problems of well-off Westerners, but there’s a special sort of horror in seeing it take an experience fraught with uncertainties and even dangers — having a baby — and turning it into a delightful game in which everybody wins.

Well, it’s intended to be delightful, but it feels as long as a pregnancy itself, this roundrobin of forcefully interconnected tales of incipient parenthood. Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher, The Green Hornet) is a TV weight-loss guru who gets pregnant with her partner (Matthew Morrison) on a celebrity dance reality show, same time as one of her former weight-loss “contestants,” Gary (Ben Falcone: Bridesmaids) and his wife (Elizabeth Banks: The Hunger Games, Man on a Ledge), same time as Gary’s NASCAR hero dad (Dennis Quaid: Footloose, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) and his trophy wife (Brooklyn Decker: Battleship, Just Go with It), who is cousin to Anna Kendrick (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, 50/50) who gets pregnant by her former high-school crush Chace Crawford (The Covenant). Baby photographer Jennifer Lopez (The Back-up Plan, An Unfinished Life) and her husband, Rodrigo Santoro (Rio, Post Grad), are adopting a baby at the same time. And so on, ad, ahem, nauseum.

It’s the hideousness of Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, both of which reduced romance to a kindergartners’ game of musical chairs, plus everyone is hormonal. The most serious issues raised concern someone stealing someone else’s idea for a baby shower. If it seems at first that one genuinely important matter to consider if you’re expecting a baby boy — to circumcise? or not? — is getting a bit of actual discussion, never fear: it ends of up glossed over and cheated out of in the most unforgivable way.

Messy? Complicated? Nah. Turns out all you should expect when you’re expecting is to live in the midst of a nine-month sitcom.

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What to Expect When You're Expecting (2012)
US/Can release: May 18 2012
UK/Ire release: May 23 2012

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated PTF: pregnancy test fail
MPAA: rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language
BBFC: rated 12A (contains one use of strong language and moderate sex references)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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