‘Expecting’ just doesn’t deliver the laughs

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, May 16, 2012 6:50pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

It worked for “He’s Just Not That Into You,” didn’t it? Or did it? Does anybody even remember the movie made from that best-selling nonfiction book?

Here’s another one of those, in any case. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” has sold many, many copies, which makes it fair game for the Hollywood treatment, even if almost everything in the movie must be invented by the imaginations of screenwriters Shauna Cross and Heather Hatch.

I trust it will not spoil many surprises if I reveal that of the many women we meet in the opening minutes of the movie, most will become pregnant. Also, the film will climax with many of the births happening about the same time.

In between, we have observations that are meant, I guess, to strike shared chords of experience about pregnancy. Special notice is taken of men, who are viewed as vaguely connected to pregnancy somehow but otherwise so clueless they mainly serve as a source of exasperation.

The movie’s got some big names, including Jennifer Lopez as a portrait photographer, Cameron Diaz as a reality-TV celebrity and Chris Rock (a thankless role) as a member of a men’s group that fancies itself a stroller-pushing Fight Club.

Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone (he scored, hilariously, as the air marshal in “Bridesmaids”) play a couple whose pregnant state is matched exactly by his father’s big announcement. The father (Dennis Quaid) is a super-competitive race-car driver, so it comes as no shock that his young trophy wife (Brooklyn Decker, of “Battleship”) is carrying twins.

The rivalry between Banks and her supermodel mother-in-law is the movie’s most sustained bit of comedy, as Banks endures every excruciating level of discomfort experienced by a mom-to-be while Decker’s character breezes through the nine months without — somehow — seeming to gain a pound.

Competing food-truck operators (surely this is the trendy movie job of the moment) complete the main group; they are played by Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford, who don’t know each other too well and whose relationship has its own set of challenges. Kendrick, the Oscar nominee from “Up in the Air,” is good enough to almost make this section work.

These are mostly separate strands, so the film cuts back and forth among these mini-stories. Director Kirk Jones, whose ho-hum track record includes the De Niro picture “Everybody’s Fine,” keeps the film moving along without ever giving you a compelling reason to care about any of this.

It rarely stirs to life. The air of packaging hangs around every too-bright, too-slick corner of the movie, so that even a spirited group of performers can’t generate any good will.

Please, no more movies based on how-to nonfiction bestsellers; let’s stick to true sources of movie adaptations, like board games.

“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (1½ stars)

The how-to nonfiction bestseller mutates into this flat comedy about pregnancy. The parallel stories include stellar figures such as Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz and Elizabeth Banks, all of whom experience various issues while expecting. Very few laughs are generated during the film’s gestation.

Rated: PG-13 for language, subject matter.

Showing: Alderwood, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Pacific Place, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.

This review has been edited since it was first posted to accurately describe the film’s plot.

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