Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Kirk Jones
Stars: Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Lopez, Anna Kendrick, Brooklyn Decker, Dennis Quaid, Ben Falcome, Chace Crawford, Matthew Morrison, Chris Rock, Thomas Lennon, Rodrigo Santoto, Joe Manganiello, Rob Huebel, Amir Talai, J Todd Smith, Rebel Wilson, Megan Mullally.
What can audiences expect from a film that is based on Heidi Murkoff’s best-selling 1984 pregnancy bible that explores what women can expect to experience during pregnancy and childbirth. Not a lot, if this disappointingly bland and patchy ensemble comedy is anything to go by. The book has been adapted for the screen by Shauna Cross (Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It, which was set against the backdrop of roller derby) and Heather Hach (the recent remake of Freaky Friday and Legally Blonde: The Musical). However, they turn the material into another of those ensemble comedy-dramas with multiple plots and a colourful array of characters. The film also boasts plenty of toilet humour and gross out moments. Like the recent He’s Just Not That Into You and New Year’s Eve, this is a vapid comedy that wastes a solid cast on a sprawling series of interwoven narratives. The producers should have sought out Woody Allen’s marvellous Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex as a guide as how to adapt this sort of non-fiction material into an engaging and thoroughly entertaining film.
This disappointing and lightweight comedy centres around a number of couples in the throes of pregnancy, both wanted and unwanted.
Elizabeth Banks plays Wendy, a successful author of children’s books and proprietor of Breast Choice, a maternity supplies store. She is also an outspoken advocate for breast feeding, who falls pregnant after years of trying with her down trodden husband Gary (Ben Falcone). Her father-in-law Ramsey (a surprisingly youthful looking Dennis Quaid), a former champion NASCAR race driver, and his vacuous beautiful young trophy wife Skyler (former model Brooklyn Decker, recently seen in Battleship) are simultaneously expecting twins, and the rivalry between the two families leads to some embarrassing moments. Rebel Wilson (from A Few Best Men, etc) contributes another scene stealing performance as Wendy’s assistant.
Cameron Diaz is Jules, a successful weight-loss guru and aggressive host of a lifestyle tv program who falls pregnant to her partner Evan (Matthew Morrison, from Glee, etc) after winning a television celebrity dance show. Jennifer Lopez is Holly, a successful photographer who plans to adopt a young baby from Africa with her partner Alex (Rodrigo Santoro). Rosie (Anna Kendrick, from Up In The Air, etc) runs a small mobile food van, and unexpectedly falls pregnant after a one-night stand with the handsome rival Marco (Chace Crawford, from Gossip Girl, etc), a former high school flame.
There are lots of montages of the couples visiting doctors, experiencing changes and eventually giving birth. Most of the women here are successful and well off, and it is the unmarried working class Rosie who suffers the most heartbreak and tragedy. Is this some sort of moral lesson or life lesson from a conservative Hollywood?
Some elements of the film have potential, but are never fully developed under the pedestrian and uninspired direction of Kirk Jones (Nanny McPhee, etc). The tone is uneven throughout, and Jones struggles to get the balance right. The film does strip away that familiar glow of pregnancy to convey the range of emotions from anxiety to joy. But the film also looks look at pregnancy in less than flattering style, and includes references to indignities such as incontinence, flatulence, changing body shape, hunger pains, mood swings, and bouts of morning sickness. “I just wanted the glow,” Banks tells a group of surprised expectant mothers. “But I’m calling bullshit on the whole thing. Pregnancy sucks!” Like most other films of its type some of the characters are more engaging and believable than others, and some of the humour is hit and miss.
Female audiences will probably respond to the film more positively than males. However male audiences are catered for with the group of gormless fathers called “The Dudes” (which includes an under used Chris Rock and Thomas Lennon), who walk around the local park discussing how they cope with the joys of fatherhood. Ironically, this dour and beleaguered group of fathers provide a sort of Greek chorus, bemoaning their relative lack of freedom, and offering advice to Alex when he has doubts about his own impending fatherhood. A running slapstick gag involving Rock’s accident-prone son provides some quirky humour.
While Murkoff’s book has survived the test of time and has inspired generations of expectant parents, it is doubtful whether this uninspiring film will have the same staying power. Just don’t expect too much from this film, and you won’t be disappointed.