Saturday, December 21, 2013

Quick Cut Review - "What To Expect When You're Expecting"


Directed by:  Kirk Jones
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz and Anna Kendrick
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour 50 minutes  
Release Date: May 18, 2012


Generally speaking, large ensemble cast movies just don't work, or more to the point, large ensemble cast ROMANCE movies just don't work. Cramming a couple dozen actors (usually a collection of past Oscar winners and the hot young crowd of actors) into a 2 hour frame and attempting to give them all equal amounts of screen time is ridiculous. You run the risk of either spreading all your actors too thin and making their roles nothing more than cameos in their own movie or more likely, the cast is so large and diverse that it is impossible to create a target audience simply because each audience member is being targeted by a different celebrity who only has 10 to 15 minutes of screen time, thus forcing audiences to sit through an hour or so of film filled with other actors they may not care for and with no real story to be had, it makes the experience extremely numbing.

That's to say nothing of how impossible it is to forge a connection between your audience and your characters when the amount of time used to develop their entire relationship is less than a single episode of your favorite sitcom. All you need to do is look no further than the atrocious holiday ensemble flicks, Valentine's Day and New Years Eve (or as I like to call them, Greeting Card movies) for examples on how horribly wrong these sort of money grabbing projects can go. But (rarely) there are some examples of how it can go right sometimes as well with the best example being the film Love Actually, which somehow avoided many of the mistakes made by those other films while still jam packing it with far too many characters.


Then we have the topic of this review, What to Expect When You're Expecting. Despite being based off a pregnancy guide book, it shares just about all the same qualities as those other Greeting Card movies, however it is more comparable to something like Love Actually than Valentine's Day in how it succeeds more than it fails. There are a number of reasons why this film works better than those others, such as it not catering strictly to the female crowd and more importantly, it keeps the number of characters to a much more manageable size with a total of only 5 couples.

But the real winner is that it isn't about nothing. Those other so-called romance ensembles were just about people meeting and hooking up, but this film targets pregnancy in all its incarnations which is a subject that never seems to get old. Jennifer Lopez is dealing with being forced to have to adopt a child, Cameron Diaz must contend with being pregnant as a celebrity, Anna Kendrick must deal with her unexpected pregnancy as a result of a one night stand, Elizabeth Banks is the woman who has always dreamed of becoming pregnant but when it happens everything seems to go wrong and finally there is Dennis Quaid and his trophy wife who has that perfect pregnancy that every woman dreams of.


Their many diverse stories and their equally diverse outcomes will certainly appeal to the female crowd, but the film doesn't forget that us guys are also part of the equation when it comes to pregnancy and that is another area the film comes through on. Likely the best scenes in the entire movie (from a guys perspective that is) are the ones with all the fathers who meet up each week in the park (headed up by a domesticated Chris Rock no less) whose insights into life as a father are both insightful and amusing to any potential fathers out there.

But let's be real here, this is a chick flick in the end, but its that rare chick flick that also gives us guys some stuff to relate to. This isn't some life altering experience or the end all, be all of films about planned parenthood, it simply is what it is, an amusing little film that examines all our fears, hopes and dreams of those who wish to build a family some day. Just so long as you don't go into it looking for anything more than that, chances are that What To Expect When You're Expecting will surprise you.


FINAL  THOUGHTS:

What you expect from this inoffensive little film is likely going to determine your outlook on it. Just so long as you aren't expecting the film to somehow miraculously provide deep insight into planned (and unplanned) parenthood, then you will be fine. It's light dramedy at its most light. It's cinematic equivalent to cotton candy, it's fluffy, tastes good but just so long as you weren't expecting it to fill you up, it fits the bill nicely until you get a chance to sit down for a real meal.

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