A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that What to Expect When You're Expecting is a fairly funny but also formulaic ensemble comedy with little resemblance to the same-named line of pregnancy health books it was inspired by. There are plenty of references to the symptoms and complaints of pregnancy, for sure -- expect litanies about "cankles" and bladder issues and morning sickness, much of which won't appeal to teens and younger -- but the movie is mostly about the couples featured in it and their adventures in baby-making and child-rearing. Cliches run rife (dads-to-be are scared about the prospect of fatherhood; moms are pushy and overeager), as do swearing (mostly "s--t," "ass," and the like) and sexual references/humor (though there's not too much actual action).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING, couples are about to face their biggest test yet: parenthood. Start with fitness guru Jules (Cameron Diaz) and dancer Evan (Matthew Morrison), who fall in love and get pregnant while paired on a celebrity dance competition TV show. Then there's children's store owner Wendy (Elizabeth Banks), who's hoping to have a baby soon with her husband, Gary (Ben Falcone), whose race-car driver father (Dennis Quaid) and stepmother (Brooklyn Decker), seem to be racing for the maternity ward, too. Photographer Holly (Jennifer Lopez) can't wait to adopt with her husband (Rodrigo Santoro), but he's not so sure. And then there's twentysomething food truck proprietor Rosie (Anna Kendrick), whose one-night stand with an old classmate/business rival (Chace Crawford) becomes something more. This ensemble comedy follows all of them as they navigate the labyrinth of physical and emotional challenges that are part of impending parenthood.
Is it any good?
Don't expect What to Expect to resemble the pregnancy book that inspired it, or to have an original point of view. Though it dispenses little bits of information that could be useful, health advice isn't really the point here, and rather than being surprising or refreshing, it trots out tired old tropes. The women are "pressuring" the men to start a family; the men are resisting and need coaxing (and bribing). Moms are extra-careful when they have the babies; dads will let them ramble through war zones, practically, without regard for their safety. There's an emphasis on how women feel whole after having children (as if they weren't before). And though the discomforts women experience during pregnancy are played for laughs, we've heard bladder control jokes dozens of times.
Still, What to Expect is funny in an breezy, uncomplicated way, and it owes a big thanks to its talented ensemble for that, from Banks' hilarious turn as an earnest mom-to-be (who transforms throughout the movie) with an unspoken rivalry with her too-gorgeous mother-in-law (Brooklyn Decker) to Chris Rock's supporting role as the truth-spouting leader of a daddy wolf pack. J. Lo is charming, even if her role is superficially sketched out. And though their storyline seems tacked on to appeal to younger viewers, Crawford and Kendrick are adorable. Ultimately, watching this movie is no labor, and for some viewers (those with young kids at home, perhaps, who just need to get some alone time watching an effortless film?), that may be enough.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Hollywood portrays parents. Do movies typically fall back on cliches when it comes to parenting roles? Why?
What is the main message that What to Expect When You're Expecting relays about pregnancy and parenting? Do you think it glamorizes them?
Parents, talk to your kids about how movies portray big milestones -- graduations, weddings, births -- and how those portrayals stack up against real life. Why do movies exaggerate the ups and downs of life?
- In theaters: May 18, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: September 11, 2012
- Cast: Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Lopez
- Director: Kirk Jones
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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