It’s become medium business in the past few years to cram second-tier (usually former first-tier) stars into big, rambling, shambling love comedies and coast on the recognizability of their faces for two hours. It’s audacious of these films to ask for two whole hours; an hour and a half is as long as any comedy should be, brevity is the soul of wit, etc. Presumably, the second hour is needed to provide ample enough screen time for stars like Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez.
In this one, instead of trying to hook up on Valentine’s or New Year’s (or because Steve Harvey says they should), everybody’s having a baby. Diaz, Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Brooklyn Decker, and Anna Kendrick, along with their respective partners — played by a bunch of bland guys in very tight shirts — fret, bicker, and generally act like people in real life don’t ever actually act, while being excessively frazzled, gassy, crampy, grumpy, hormonal, and all the other supposed symptoms that accompany knowing you’re going to bring life into the world. Each character’s story is constantly in danger of being nudged out of the way by the next, which gives the best actors in the film (Banks and Kendrick) less than a fighting chance of delivering a real performance.
The one memorable element of What to Expect When You’re Expecting is Chris Rock as Vic, a veteran daddy with blunt parenting advice for Holly’s (Jennifer Lopez’s) hubby. Vic delivers some needed gravity through his well-known, no-bullshit persona, at one point telling the pussyfooting, soon-to-be-father that thinking you’re happy in your 20s just means you have yet to discover the exhausting but inimitable pleasure of raising kids. His liveliness stands out in an amazingly by-the-numbers movie, but it’s even more conspicuous to see him playing the only black character — barely even given a name — in an almost totally whitewashed cast.
What do you expect when this many famous faces have been mushed together: a real movie, or a strange perversion of that face-morphing technique that music video directors used to rely on all the time in the 90s? If you drift in and out of sleep over the course of What To Expect When You’re Expecting’s interminable runtime (a distinct possibility) then you’ll probably see a new face every time you crack open your lids, making the whole experience look something like Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video filtered through images from a supermarket tabloid rack and run in extreme slow-motion. Which, if it existed, would be something I’d watch 50 times before going anywhere near What to Expect When You’re Expecting again.