Too many characters to keep track of in ‘What to Expect’ - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Too many characters to keep track of in ‘What to Expect’

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Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at nspake@asu.edu

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Posted: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 12:45 pm | Updated: 5:17 pm, Mon Nov 5, 2012.

Following the tradition of “He’s Just Not That Into You,” “Valentine’s Day,” and “New Years Eve,” “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” focuses on the lives of several couples living in the big city that are suffering from a similar dilemma. In this case, the characters are dealing with the common hardships that come with having a baby, such as adoption, conceiving, and miscarrying. This trend was started in 2003 with the star-studded, multi-plotted “Love Actually.” To this date, “Love Actually” remains the only film of its kind to get the formula right. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” unfortunately doesn’t break the curse.

The cast includes Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone as a traditional married couple that finally manage to get pregnant after years of trying. Ironically, the two conceive at the exact same time as Falcone’s father, played by Dennis Quaid, who has married a super model half his age played by Brooklyn Decker. Meanwhile, Jennifer Lopez is trying to adopt an Ethiopian baby with her reluctant husband, played by Rodrigo Santoro. Cameron Diaz plays the fit host of a “Biggest Loser”-like reality show who is accidentally impregnated by Matthew Morrison, another fellow celebrity. There’s also Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford as a couple of kids that have a one-night stand without researching proper condom use. This cast might have seemed huge years ago. Compared to some of the romantic comedies listed before, however, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” feels almost like a one-man show.

The film suffers from the same problems that have plagued other movies of its kind.

In addition to being written like a lazy sitcom pilot, there are far too many characters to keep track of. None of these people are allowed enough time to grow on the audience as the film shifts from one subplot to another. Based on what the audience does see, these characters basically feel like cheap archetypes that aren’t as amusing as they think they are. Maybe the film could have worked if the screenwriters directed all attention to just one couple. Packing them all into a whole feature just feels like several mediocre short films aimlessly edited together.

It doesn’t help that pregnancy is becoming the most overused subject matter in movies and TV shows today. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” doesn’t have anything new to say about having a baby that “Juno,” “Knocked Up,” or the overlooked “Waitress” didn’t already. To be fair, the film is more watchable than “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” or one of those teenage-pregnancy reality shows. Yet, it’s still pretty clunky with few moments of insight and even fewer laughs.

The only part of the film with any real humor, suspense, or drama is in the final act when the soon-to-be mothers simultaneously go into labor. By that point though, it’s too little too late. Even when some of the couples come together in instances of coincidence, it feels tacked on and doesn’t add anything to the narrative. If you’re a fan of these kinds of movies, you might be able to overlook these flaws and accept the film for what it is. Personally, I’m just fed up with this method of storytelling in romantic comedies. That’s what you can expect from “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” Now there’s a mouthful.

Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at nspake@asu.edu.

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