J. Lo, Cameron buoy up disjointed comedy
Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez and their co-stars deliver winsome portrayals in Kirk Jones’ “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.” But spirited performances don’t a good comedy make. In fact, the narrative threads of Kirk Jones’ ensemble piece feel so disparate that it’s hard to sustain empathy for its characters after they wriggle out of the tight spots in which they find themselves.
J. Lo is cast as Holly, a photographer who’s married to handsome Alex (Rodrigo Santoro). The only thing lacking in her dream life is a child. Because she has difficulty conceiving, she decides to adopt an orphan in Ethiopia, an idea which Alex isn’t too enthusiastic about.
Diaz plays Jules, a weight-loss instructor who learns about her pregnancy during the finale of the celebrity dance-off she competes in. The father is Evan (Matthew Morrison of “Glee”), her dance partner.
Jules’ former client, Gary (Ben Falcone), is also thrilled that his wife, breastfeeding advocate Wendy (Elizabeth Banks), is infanticipating. But because he’s been living in the shadow of his successful father (Dennis Quaid) all his life, he isn’t too happy that his dad’s young trophy wife, Skyler (Brooklyn Decker), is also pregnant—with twins!
Rosie (Anna Kendrick) has a bigger problem, though: She learns about her pregnancy just weeks after her one-night-stand with her food-truck rival and former flame, Marco (Chace Crawford). But she miscarries her baby, and wonders how the accident will affect her evolving relationship with Marco. What to do?
The nonfiction pregnancy guide that inspired Jones’ comedy is one of USA Today’s “25 Most Influential Books” in the past 25 years.
If the book is easy to follow for the orderly way its sections are presented, the big-screen version utilizes a random style that leaves breathing room for its irreverent jokes (provided by a support group composed of a fraternity of fathers, led by motor-mouth Chris Rock) and sight gags (there’s a running joke about a boy who keeps slipping, falling, tripping, etc).
Lopez’s episode is the film’s dramatic center—which becomes particularly moving when she and Santoro fly to Africa to pick up their adopted daughter. By contrast, it isn’t easy to suspend disbelief over the series of (reproductive) events involving the five couples that take place with such synchronized serendipity—but that’s Hollywood storytelling for you!
Led by Diaz, Banks, and Rebel Wilson (as a zany employee at Wendy’s Breast Choice boutique), the likable and attractive cast has flashes of comedic brilliance—but even these pleasant surprises are too episodic to create a cohesive whole.
Inevitably, the film’s disjointed sequences make the movie less than the sum of its parts!