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Movie review: 'What to Expect When You're Expecting'

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Cameron Diaz, center, plays a celebrity fitness trainer in "What to Expect When You're Expecting."

Unless you're pretty slow on the uptake, you already know that "What to Expect When You're Expecting" bears little relation to the self-help book aimed at educating pregnant women about the little darlings growing in their bellies. In fact, it's such a deliberate departure, one wonders why the producers insisted on keeping the title, other than nefarious purposes to lure in millions of moms and mama wannabes, who don't really require much luring for bubbly romantic comedies.

Of course, this is the same industry that is also this week releasing a movie based on a board game about sinking military naval vessels, so starting off assuming the worst is probably going to work out pretty well.

There is no advice to be contained in the movie version of "WTEWYE," which is what I will call it henceforth, since I don't feel like typing it all, plus it seems like that would come out "wha-TOO-wee," which is good aural representation of how I felt about it.

Directed by Kirk Jones from a script by Shauna Cross and Heather Hache, "WTEWYE" feels like it was cooked up in a Hollywood laboratory ruled by poll-testing tubes and focus group beakers. Despite this, there actually are a few moments that shine.

The story takes a disparate group of five women, loosely interconnected and located mostly in Atlanta, who learn they're to become mothers right around the same time. There are also their male counterparts, plus friends, relatives, various hangers-on and a walk-on by some unrelated fathers known simply as The Dudes Group (more on them in a bit).

Now, that is a whole heapin' lot of characters to keep straight, let alone make them believable and identifiable. The result is that one couple's story works so well that I was annoyed whenever the movie focuses elsewhere, two other orbits of pregnancy feel forced and faked, another is really just a secondary story to the first one, and the last one has no purpose for even existing.

A quick run-down:

Jules (Cameron Diaz) is a celebrity fitness trainer who just won a "Dancing with the Stars"-type reality show and fell in love with her gorgeous dancer to boot. They're rich, famous and busy, and find there's not much they truly agree upon.

Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) runs a store called The Breast Choice devoted to everything about having a baby, but she and her hubby Gary (Ben Falcone) have had trouble conceiving on their own.

Gary's dad Ramsey (Dennis Quaid), a retired race car driver, knocks up his second wife with twins. She's younger than Gary, a plastic-y Barbie type who makes pregnancy look like a breeze.

Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) can't get pregnant, so they look to adopt a baby from Ethiopia. Alex is getting cold feet, which gives Holly the jitters.

The last couple is Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford), early-20s owners of competing food trucks and recovering from a high-school split. They get back together for a one-nighter, she gets knocked up, and then they have a lot of Very Important discussions to share.

I genuinely enjoyed the Wendy/Gary storyline, with Banks getting some of the best lines and scenes as a woman who's spent her adult life pushing the motherhood-is-magic theme, only to find it's more about cankles and hemorrhoids. "I didn't get 'The Glow,' I just got bacne."

The one with the young kids is given the shortest shrift, which is OK since it feels like it was only included to rope in a certain demographic.

The Dudes, a club for dads to hang out with their kids, are also worth a laugh or two, with their mantra of total acceptance of each other's substandard parenting. But their sequences bring the movie to a dead stop.

I wasn't expecting much from "WTEWYE," but audiences certainly deserved more than this.

-- Christopher Lloyd is co-founder of TheFilmYap.com.

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING
Directed by Kirk Jones. Written by Heather Hach, Heidi Murkoff, Shauna Cross. Stars Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Chace Crawford, Matthew Morrison, Chris Rock, Ben Falcone, Dennis Quaid, Rodrigo Santoro. 109 min. Rated PG-13: for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language.

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Last modified: May 15, 2012
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