What to Expect When You're Expecting is what you expect from a movie about pregnancy, even if you've seen only one before: morning sickness, weight gain, mood swings, self-doubt, water breaking, the climactic race to the maternity ward. All of it incredibly multiplied by three, with adoption and miscarriage tossed in for good measure.
The only surprise is that Garry Marshall didn't direct this jumbled, star-studded kibitz and rename it Mothers Day.
Taking its title from Heidi Murkoff's how-to book, What to Expect When You're Expecting has as much to do with its source material as Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex ... did, which is to say not much.
The plot is a handful of rom-com ideas that couldn't sustain a movie on their own, so director Kirk Jones shuffles them, prolonging their easy resolutions. The movie is as artificially padded as the abdomens of Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks and Brooklyn Decker, playing women reminding us that babies are "miracles . . . from two scoops of angel kisses."
Wendy (Banks) wants a baby so much that she started a breast feeding movement before getting pregnant. Her meek husband, Gary, (Ben Falcone) is excited about the news, until his overbearing, NASCAR champion father Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) one-ups him again by expecting twins with his trophy wife, Skyler (Decker).
If any subplot here deserves more attention, it's this one, with Skyler's supermodel pregnancy comically contrasted with Wendy's back pains, bloating and gas. Banks delivers the best scene in the movie, when Wendy hysterically confesses to her fans that pregnancy isn't all it's cracked up to be. Quaid's proud-papa swagger is appealing enough to make you overlook the dumb golf cart race solving problems with Gary.
This is one of those movies in which everyone is somehow related, so let's connect the scattered dots. Gary eats his feelings, so he once appeared on a weight-loss TV show hosted by Jules (Diaz), whom we meet when she's appearing on a celebrity dance show. Jules celebrates her victory with partner Evan (Matthew Morrison) by tossing her cookies on national TV. They've been doing more than rehearsing the mambo.
Watching at home is Rosie (Anna Kendrick), a food truck operator whose beer bet with a rival vendor named Marco (Chace Crawford) leads to a one-night stand and pregnancy. Rosie has a left-field connection to someone already mentioned, that wouldn't spoil anything if revealed. Marco drives his food truck over a buddy's foot for a reason to be at the hospital when babies start popping.
Meanwhile, Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) tearfully seek to adopt an Ethiopian orphan, and Chris Rock leads an amusing daddy daycare brigade offering Alex dubious advice.
That pretty much sums up the movie's mood swings, from tragic to wacky on the turn of a sonogram, with little of it feeling genuine. If this is what mothers are about, then why didn't What to Expect When You're Expecting arrive last weekend for their special day?
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.