In one of the climactic scenes of this, for want of a better word, romcom (despite being neither romantic nor amusing), one of the leads (Elizabeth Banks, pregnant again after carrying JD’s baby in Scrubs), when referring to the trauma of her wee one’s gestation, remarks “they say when it’s all over, you forget the whole thing”. Perhaps this was intended as a sly meta-joke on behalf of the writers, who would presumably say the same of this film, which throughout feels less like the movie equivalent of a planned and adored bundle of joy and more like an impromptu miscarriage during Christmas dinner.
Based loosely on a self-help guide to pregnancy of the same name published in the eighties (which in itself is quite bizarre, almost the equivalent of creating a feature-length musical around a lentil recipe book), this film, not unlike a supermarket sandwich, manages to disappoint no matter how low expectations may be. The film is riddled with as many Hollywood A-listers as a feral dog is with rabies. The likes of Cameron Diaz (looking good for a woman documented in the Domesday Book), coupled lazily with Justin Timberlake identikit Matthew Morrison (otherwise known as ‘Mr. Glee’), Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock (this role perhaps representing his greatest accomplishment as an actor, a comedian and a man) and even for you jingoists out there a cameo from our own Cheryl ‘toilet attendant assault’ Cole, all fail to make this film, which could double as an advert for involuntary euthanasia, a worthwhile romp.
What To Expect When You’re Expecting is guilty of many despicable acts, perhaps its most obvious offence being that for the bulk of it nothing happens, with many scenes not only being entirely meaningless (any of the scenes which features the ludicrously irrelevant character Davis, a cross between Oz from American Pie and David Koresh) but also full of offensively glib dialogue. The film has a remarkable ability to craft a scene which in the moment feels like the film has reached rock bottom, but upon reflection you realise was actually one of the film’s high points.
The film focuses on five pregnant couples so lazily inter-connected it feels as if the writers only decided to link them up last minute with half an hour of film left in the camera. In one of the final typically stupid and pointless scenes it turns out two of the characters, unbeknownst to us, are actually cousins; the sort of layered emotional resonance James Joyce could only dream of creating. One storyline involves two characters so hateful and irritating that the tragedy which befalls them, rather than creating what must have been an intended Shakespearean level of compassion and sentimentality, is actually one of the most satisfying scenes in the film. The sub-story of Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and partner Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) adopting a child from Ethiopa could have provided at least one good deed against this film’s list of sins, but the depiction of Ethiopa is so stereotypical that it borders on racism, and not the funny kind. Obviously it goes without saying that all the couples seem to be remarkably wealthy, because as we all know, poor people, if they even exist, don’t have children.
As a male, it is unlikely I will ever fully experience what it is like to go through pregnancy, but I sincerely doubt it could be as laborious, exhausting and tedious an experience as sitting through this film.