|Elizabeth Banks and Brooklyn Decker in What to Expect When You're Expecting|
What to Expect When You're Expecting was [excuse the hack writing here, it's unavoidable:] not what I expected. I expected it to be another He's Just Not That Into You: an insipid, generally obnoxious star-studded ensemble piece loosely inspired by a bestselling cultural touchstone of a nonfiction book. Instead, it is an entertaining, surprisingly touching star-studded ensemble piece loosely inspired by a bestselling cultural touchstone of a nonfiction book.
One of the best things about What to Expect is that it never attempts to universalize pregnancy or parenting. The five semi-connected expecting couples in the film all have different conception stories (from an oops one night stand, to getting lucky after years of infertility, to choosing adoption) and pregnancy experiences (from Brooklyn Decker's walk-in-the-park pregnancy with twins to lactation advocate Elizabeth Bank's hormone-fueled emotional breakdown to [spoiler alert!] an astonishingly sensitive depiction of miscarriage). While the film unfortunately depicts an Atlanta that knows no gays and is largely white, it at least partway makes up for its lack of demographic diversity by exploring a rich diversity of experience.
|"Dudes Group" of fathers in What to Expect When You're Expecting|
I was also very happily surprised by the depiction of fatherhood in What to Expect When You're Expecting, especially after seeing the bit in the trailer where a group of dads pushing strollers slo-mo walk to Biggie's "Big Poppa." I expected this plotline to be another iteration of "men doing ladywork: HILARIOUS!" But the "dudes group" is celebrated, not mocked, for embracing fatherhood, and while the group has a code of "no judging" when they share such parenting mishaps as "last week, my kid ate a cigarette", the dads are not depicted as incompetent impostors in a woman's world. They're equal partners in parenthood.
And best of all, What to Expect When You're Expecting is genuinely funny and emotionally affecting. It's sort of unfortunate that the movie features a lot of humor bizarrely specific to the 2012 zeitgeist, from food truck rivalries to autotuned remixes of public breakdowns; because the movie could be, like the book of the same title, something of a perennial classic for expecting parents. But What to Expect When You're Expecting makes up some points by also including some of the best things about the 2012 cultural moment: scene-stealing Rebel Wilson and shirtless Joe Manganiello.
|Shirtless Joe Maganiello is one of the best things about living in 2012.|