[Screen It]

(2012) (Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez) (PG-13)

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Romantic Comedy: Various couples, some married, some not, deal with the various issues of trying to start a family, be that through adoption or pregnancy.
Jules (CAMERON DIAZ) is the host and fitness instructor on a televised weight loss program who finds herself pregnant by her partner, Evan (MATTHEW MORRISON), on a televised dancing program. Aquarium photographer Holly (JENNIFER LOPEZ) wishes she could get pregnant, but when that doesn't work out, she hopes to adopt a child from Ethiopia with her husband, Alex (RODRIGO SANTORO), who isn't quite as gung-ho as her about the idea. As a result, she hopes that pairing him with a bunch of fathers who routinely get together for mutual support -- Vic (CHRIS ROCK), Gabe (ROB HUEBEL), Craig (THOMAS LENNON) and Patel (AMIR TALAI) -- will wear off on him, even if they idolize their buff, single friend, Davis (JOE MANGANIELLO), and his sexual escapades.

Wendy (ELIZABETH BANKS), who runs a boutique revolving around breast-feeding -- with her zany employee Janice (REBEL WILSON) -- and has just published a children's book about that subject, also really wants to start a family with her husband, Gary (BEN FALCONE). Their eventual happy news, however, is overshadowed by Gary's rich, former race car driver father, Ramsey (DENNIS QUAID), getting his much younger and very attractive wife, Skyler (BROOKLYN DECKER), pregnant with twins. The only ones not looking to get pregnant are rival food truck vendors Rosie (ANNA KENDRICK) and Marco (CHACE CRAWFORD) who end up that way following a one-night stand.

As the weeks and months progress, the various couples must contend with the varying aspects of starting a family including the effects of pregnancy on the women, the adoption process, and the expected arrival of their upcoming bundles of joy.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
In the old days of Hollywood, pregnancy was not necessarily a good thing, at least in the eyes of the men running the studios and calling the shots. Yes, the addition of a new, fresh face to a famous movie or TV couple could mean some good PR for them and/or their latest project. In most other instances, however, planned or unplanned pregnancies often resulted in production delays of movies and TV shows, cancelation of certain projects, and/or the need to get creative in hiding the "baby bumps" from camera view when the characters those ladies played weren't also supposed to be pregnant on the screen.

Now that many women have become more powerful in the industry, however, the stigma is starting to lessen. And with the popularity of pregnancy guide books such as "What to Expect When You're Expecting," TV talk shows featuring segments about the same and even reality TV shows featuring expectant mothers, pregnancy is probably more popular now -- in entertainment -- than ever.

Of course, most actresses who play pregnant women in movies or on TV are just faking it with padded suits, make-up and going through the usual motions. After all, a casting call for a role that dictates an actress must get or already be pregnant would be pushing the limits of common sense and/or decency. That said, a film about just that likely would have been more interesting, engaging and/or entertaining than the filmed version of "What to Expect When You're Expecting."

While that pregnancy book -- by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel -- has reportedly sold more than 14 million copies since its release in 1984, it's a chronologically organized question and answer guide that literally addresses what its title promises. It is not a piece of fiction and there is no traditional plot.

Undeterred by that -- and following the misguided marketing assumption by studios that audiences will flock to films based solely on familiar titles (see also this week's theatrical release of "Battleship" as another example) -- director Kirk Jones ("Nanny McPhee," "Waking Ned Divine") and screenwriters Shauna Cross and Heather Hach attempt to turn the self-help guide book into some regular cinematic entertainment. Next up, they might consider "P90X: The Movie" (the star-crossed tale of hard-core exercise fanatics who meet and fall in love over extreme physical workouts).

What they've essentially concocted is yet another rom-com featuring a large ensemble cast of performers (big, small and some unknowns as filler) playing men and women dealing with various issues of love, sex and romance among couples at varying stages of committed relationships. Some are married, such as the breast-feeding boutique owner and author and her husband (Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone) who are going the natural route but must compete with his rich father (Dennis Quaid) and much younger second (or later) wife (Brooklyn Decker) who makes pregnancy seem like nothing more than peaches and cream.

There's also an aquarium photographer and her husband (Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro) who are doing the adoption route, while the unmarried couples are represented by Cameron Diaz and Matthew Morrison playing partners on a nationally televised TV dance show (in a spoof on "Dancing with the Stars" that goes nowhere), while the characters played by Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford unintentionally get pregnant following a food vendor truck bet turned one-night stand.

The result is the pregnancy equivalent of "Valentine's Day," "New Year's Eve" or others of their ilk that feature multiple and loosely connected storylines and far too many characters. Sometimes, those sorts of pics do work. "Love Actually" and "Crazy, Stupid, Love." are good examples where the end result succeeds despite those aforementioned structural issues. Most, however, don't, and this is the latest example where lackluster writing, sitcom-style premises and less than engaging characters result in a fairly tedious affair.

Yes, there are a few funny moments and some amusing lines scattered here and there. For the most part, however, the vast majority of the material falls flat or feels uninspired, be that which revolves around the above characters and their storylines, or a quartet of dads (Chris Rock, Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon and Amir Talai) who occasionally show up as the movie equivalent of a paternal Greek chorus to state the truths about pregnancy and parenthood.

And considering that many parents or those who are expecting their first or latest child are usually looking for escapism style entertainment that doesn't mirror their lives, it's hard to estimate whether buying the rights to the title of Murkoff and Mazel's novel and turning that into what's presumably a big-budget release was good financial planning or not. Only time will tell, and others might have more positive reactions, but for yours truly, the 110 or so minutes ended up feeling like 9 months of cinematic gestation without the glow. "What to Expect When You're Expecting" rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed May 14, 2012 / Posted May 18, 2012

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