Sunday 19 November 2017

Pregnancy drama which does deliver

Paul Whitington

What to Expect When You're Expecting

(12A, general release, 110 minutes)

Director: Kirk Jones Stars: Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Matthew Morrison

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One of those wholesome, feel-good ensemble comedies that Hollywood inflicts on us a couple of times a year, What to Expect When You're Expecting takes its title from a bestselling pregnancy book that terrified a generation of American parents-to-be.

This film has no pretensions towards enlightenment, and uses the condition of pregnancy as a vehicle for comic drama.

And unlike such excruciatingly unfunny recent ensemble romcoms as New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day, What to Expect When You're Expecting is actually pretty entertaining. None of the couples involved are poor of course, and they're all straight, but at least Kirk Jones' film addresses in passing some of its subject's darker aspects.

Cameron Diaz plays Jules, a fitness coach on a TV weight-loss show who's also a contestant in a celebrity dancing competition.

After she and her dance partner Evan (Matthew Morrison) win the contest, Jules throws up into the cut-glass trophy on live television, and realises she's pregnant. And though Evan is the father, the pair barely know each other and find they have differing views on parenthood.

Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) and Gary (Ben Falcone) have no such problems, but she's a children's author and owner of a childcare boutique whose strident views on motherhood and breastfeeding are challenged when she gets pregnant for the first time herself.

Gary, meanwhile, is locked in an eternal competition with his brash and cocky dad, Ramsey (Dennis Quaid), a former race driver who's now married to a beautiful woman half his age.

Gary thinks he's got one over on his dad when he and Wendy meet them to announce their good news, only to discover that Skyler is also expecting -- twins.

Jennifer Lopez, meanwhile, plays a baby photographer called Holly, who was unable to conceive and is now planning to adopt an Ethiopian baby with her partner Alex (Rodrigo Santoro).

As Alex tries to prepare himself for fatherhood, he's coached by a kind of Greek chorus of dads, who are led by Vic (Chris Rock). Vic and his buddies provide some of the film's funniest moments, though their patter is a little over-dependent on vagina jokes.

Banks and Diaz are very reliable and accomplished performers, but Ms Lopez has an undertaker's touch when it comes to comedy, and blunders around unconvincingly.

But the rest of the cast make a sometimes patchy script work, and the film also commendably tackles the trauma of miscarriage with a storyline involving Chace Crawford and Anna Kendrick.

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