The best thing that can be said about What to Expect When You’re Expecting is that, unlike that other recent adaptation of a best-selling self-help book, Think Like a Man, it doesn’t spend a quarter of its running time trying to convince you to go out and buy the source material once the movie has ended. Yes, there’s a scene in which one of the characters is shown reading Heidi Murkoff’s popular pregnancy guide, but hey, at least it doesn’t show impossibly large crowds lining up to buy the book in frenzied, Harry Potter-like anticipation, then rushing home to feverishly memorize it in an epic three-night-long marathon session, then calling up all of their friends and hyping it up in a way that would seem over-the-top to even the craziest religious fanatic. It may be a terrible movie, but it is a movie, not a two-hour-long infomercial that’s been cleverly disguised as one. So it has that going for it.
What the movie doesn’t have going for it is an interesting plot, characters, or dialogue. Like Think Like a Man, it tells five interlocking stories, each of which are meant to illustrate an aspect of the author’s thesis. In this case, Murkoff’s thesis seems to be, “Getting pregnant will lead to a ton of situations commonly found in bad romantic comedies.” Cameron Diaz plays a fitness instructor/Dancing With the Stars contestant who gets into an argument with her husband (Glee’s Matthew Morrison) over whether or not to have their baby circumcised. Elizabeth Banks plays a breast-feeding advocate who encounters just about every pregnancy-related complication imaginable; Brooklyn Decker plays her sister-in-law who just happens to have the same delivery date and whose pregnancy is improbably complication-free. Anna Kendrick plays a pork vendor who meets cute with a rival pork vendor, becomes pregnant after the first date, experiences a miscarriage, and then goes through the break-up/get back together stages that are mandatory in romantic comedies. Reprising her role from The Back-Up Plan, Jennifer Lopez plays a child-portrait photographer who adopts a baby from Ethiopa, loses one of her clients, fails to tell her partner (Rodrigo Santoro) about it, but since he’s failed to tell her that he’s not ready to be a father, everything evens out.
Whereas Think Like a Man developed an interesting tension between the obviousness of its characters’ problems and the weird insistence that these problems could only be solved by a genius of Steve Harvey’s calibre, What to Expect isn’t even accidentally amusing. Each of the five subplots is the sort of standard issue rom-com fare that anyone who goes to the movies more than two times a year will already be thoroughly acquainted with. Kept separately, these stories may have been tolerable. But bundled together, they’re just about insufferable. (To give an idea of just how cliched and predictable the storytelling is, I will simply point out that one of the subplots climaxes with two characters racing each other across a golf course, and that one of their golf carts ends up underwater).
If you really want to see a romantic comedy about multiple pregnancies, see Friends With Kids. That movie may have been a boring, overlong mess, but compared to this, it’s Annie Hall.