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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What To Expect When You're Expecting

Come on, really? Did the creators and/or marketing people behind this film intentionally give it a title that seems to serve as little more than a set up for some really obvious jokes at the film's expense? I've heard that the title is actually the name of a self-help book on which the film is based but I'd prefer to imagine we live in a world where films are not based on self-help books so a set up for a lame joke it is. "What to expect when you're expecting? A bad movie that's what." Why go for lame when you can go for lame and vaguely nonsensical at the same time...

First we had Love Actually and it was good. Then we had Valentine's Day and it was basically Love Actually with all the good bits taken out. And then, just a few short months ago, we had New Years Eve and it made the worst, most excruciatingly schmaltzy parts of Love Actually look like the diner scene in When Harry Met Sally. And now, by way of Think Like A Man, comes What To Expect When You're Expecting and it's like Love Act- Actually, you know what, we are now at a point where these multi-stranded romantic comedy dramas would need a shovel and a hard hat to get any lower. Indeed, to be fair to What To Expect When You're Expecting, it is a massive improvement over Think Like A Man and New Years Eve. It's smash-your-head-against-the-wall bad, rather than gauge-your-eyes-out bad so, you know, good on it for that, but that doesn't mean that you should waste your hard earned cash on it.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around a number of very, very loosely connected couples who are, as you may have guessed from the title, waiting for the proverbial stalk to come. Each of these couples do, of course, represent different kinds of expectant parents. We have an unwanted pregnancy, a planned pregnancy, an adoption and, let us not forget, a race between a son and his ultra-competitive father to reach the delivery room first with their respective partners. Oh how we laughed.

Or not, as the case may be. This is, of course, billed as a comedy drama and while the drama is every bit as uninspired, as vacuous and as unconvincing as you may fear - you know you're in trouble when a film can't even get you to sympathize with the supernaturally sympathetic and likable Anna Kendrick - but it's the "comedy" that embarrasses most. It's not entirely unexpected for a multi-stranded comedy to try its hand at a variety of different comedic stylings. What is similarly not unexpected though, is that the film fails to elicit so much as an accidental giggle - broad, screwball physical comedy between competitive dads-to-be; sardonic bickering between couples or "witty" repartee between a father-support group (see the bottom half of the above poster): What To Expect When You're Expecting is wildly inept at all of them. And that's when it bothers with the comedy - half the time, it forgets what's it was even trying to be in the first place.  

So no, it may not represent the absolute nadir of its genre but What To Expect When You're Expecting is an overlong, dreary, superficial, artificial and entirely unsatisfying slice of slick but soulless Hollywood product that looks all the worse when you consider just how much better films like 50/50 and Away We Go handle that balance between genuinely funny comedy and genuinely moving human drama. To make this an even tougher pill to swallow, this kind of manipulative, cynical dreck has made far more money than real heartfelt "dramedies" like 50/50 and Away We Go could ever hope to make. Sadly, that is exactly what I was expecting.


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