“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” falls squarely into the newest rom-com genre – pack as many stars in as possible without giving them nearly enough to do.
Think “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve” for the two most recent examples.
Yet “Expecting” vaults over those overstuffed comedy carcasses thanks to a simple, undeniable truth. We’ll buy just about any hackneyed premise as long as it makes us laugh.
And there are plenty of howls here, especially when Chris Rock and his fellow screen dads are on the scene. The addition of a daddy’s-only group makes “Expecting” not just a fine time but a tonic to rom-coms which offer precious little for the fellas to enjoy.
The film follows a gaggle of loosely, kinda-sorta related characters all dealing with the arrival of a new baby. Hardcore fitness diva and reality star Jules (Cameron Diaz, buffer than buff) didn’t plan on getting knocked up by her “Dancing with the Stars”-style partner (“Glee’s Matthew Morrison). But she won’t stop filming either of her reality shows just because she has a bun in her taut, tan oven.
Holly (Jennifer Lopez) is looking to adopt a child from Ethiopia, but her beau (Rodrigo Santoro) is scared to death about becoming a pappy.
And mothering expert Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) is about to learn that being pregnant involves as much vomiting and incontinence as it does that alleged glow.
Co-stars Dennis Quaid (who really can’t do comedy), Brooklyn Decker (showing improvement from “Just Go With It”), Thomas Lennon, Rock, Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford round out the cast, a game troupe eager to exploit every baby cliche in modern culture.
But it’s the fathers who rule this rom-com. “No judging,” is their mantra, and they have their own rules regarding the best way to stay sane. Their banter is brisk and natural, and when the lone single guy in the troupe (the towering Joe Manganiello from “True Blood”) appears they treat him like a god. Sharp, funny stuff.
Banks gets arguably the most screen time among the A-level stories, and deservedly so. She remains as underrated as Paul Rudd in the comedy department, and watching her transform from mommy expert to a quivering wreck is to witness a delicate dance that too few actors can pull off.
“What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” based on the popular birthing guide, should have stuck to its most successful plotines and trimmed the rest. But amidst the character overload are buckets of laughter and enough frustrated fathers to warrant a sequel.