Leave it to Hollywood to transform a popular parenting book into a glossy, vapid celebration of pop-culture vomit populated by impossibly perfect stars, overflowing with tired pregnancy jokes, and ending at precisely the moment when the real challenge begins.
A household name thanks to her popular fitness program, Jules (Cameron Diaz) can't contain her excitement after learning she's going to have a baby with Evan (Matthew J. Morrison), the sure-footed star of a dancing show. But the closer Jules gets to her due date, the more she and Evan realize that the demands of parenthood and the responsibilities of a celebrity couldn't be more different. Meanwhile, outspoken infant-advice author Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) contends with surging hormones as her belly begins to swell, and her devoted husband Gary (Ben Falcone) is shell-shocked to discover that his overbearing trophy wife will soon be having twins. Of course, not everyone is cut out to be a father, and as professional photographer Holly (Jennifer Lopez) prepares to scour the globe for a child to adopt, her reluctant husband Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) gets his first glimpse of fatherhood in a brutally honest support group for new dads. And while some parents spend years waiting for the right moment to have a child, feuding food-truck owners Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford) get the surprise of their lives when an impulsive act of passion has permanent repercussions.
What's made of light, full of stars, but still a black hole of comedic bromides? A witless celebrity circle jerk constructed on a foundation of rickety clichés, What to Expect When You're Expecting is rife with lame sight gags and phoned-in performances, and it relies on a screenplay so lazy that writers Shauna Cross and Heather Hach actually have all of the pregnant characters converge on the same Atlanta hospital on the very same night to give birth. These quibbles could likely be forgiven if the film offered any actual insight into the process of becoming a parent; instead, Cross and Hach focus on petty family rivalries, trite reality-TV conflicts, and paternal stereotypes, while director Kirk Jones glosses everything over with a sunny and suitably generic Hollywood sheen. When one story arc concerning a miscarriage boldly approaches something of real substance, the filmmakers are quick to distract us by shifting focus. And Jones, Cross, and Hach can't resist giving us a happy ending, even if it completely betrays all that came before, so we can rest assured that everything will work out by the time our heroines' bellies are ready to burst.
In fairness, a comedy that realistically portrayed pregnancy and childbirth probably wouldn't be all that funny. But that's still no excuse for cashing in on a popular book title by recycling musty old jokes and putting them in the mouths of celebrities in a cynical bid to sell movie tickets -- and that's precisely what you should expect from What to Expect When You're Expecting.