“Expecting” at its best when banking on Banks
It’s a lot easier to digest the recent parade of ensemble romantic comedies if you think of them as the big screen equivalent of restaurant buffets. Stuffed with more characters than can possibly be carefully developed, films such as “Valentine’s Day,” “He’s Not That Into You,” and more recently the above average “Think Like a Man,” are less about the quality or depth of plot and more about broad entertainment value. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” based on the popular guide first published in 1984, appears at first to be nothing but a superficial appetizer with little on its mind beyond cliché and predictable formula.
But once the various plots develop, some genuine tenderness surfaces and the film ends up being a comedy in which many women and even modern day fathers will find common ground.
Hooray for Elizabeth Banks’ Wendy, who grounds the converging storylines with heart and a sharp affability as the owner of a nursing boutique store whose train wreck pregnancy and comic coping skills never get tiresome. She’s helped by a supportive husband (a terrific Ben Falcone) and a kooky assistant (Rebel Wilson).
Her Father-in-law (Dennis Quaid) and his trophy wife (Brooklyn Decker) are expecting twins and have little beyond the expected gags to work with, while the film’s most interesting storyline about a one night stand pregnancy involving two food truck owners (Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford displaying great chemistry) can only go so far in the limited structure. Then there’s the adoption couple (Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro) who have understandable doubts about adopting an Ethiopian baby. Go ahead and try to resist being moved when on cue the film transports us to a reception ceremony in a small African village. Another couple (a very ripped Cameron Diaz and “Glee’s” Matthew Morrison) in a only mildly interesting plot line find pregnancy disrupts their television careers.
The biggest surprise, and this type of movie desperately needs one, is the “Dads Group” that meets regularly at the park with baby packs and strollers in tow for an afternoon of wonderfully amusing bonding. Comprised of Chris Rock, Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon and Amir Talai, they banter spiritedly about their lot in life and cheer upon hearing about the exploits of their hunky unfettered buddy Davis during his exercise regimen.
Maybe the multiple plotlines are there to camouflage a dearth of character development or biting wit. No matter. This kind of film is about sheer entertainment, and in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” keeping expectations low is a success formula for the easily satiated.
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language.