What to Expect When You’re Expecting is the latest comedy (after Think Like a Man) to be based on a self-help best-seller. What’s next, Jennifer Aniston and Ashton Kutcher in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People? Adapted from Heidi Murkoff’s celebrated 1984 pregnancy bible, What to Expect takes six lightly sketched couples and weaves them into the impending-motherhood equivalent of a synthetic ensemble rom-com. As sociology, it’s skin-deep, but if you’re a parent or preparing to be one, you might see yourself in a few of these folks and have a good time doing so.
Elizabeth Banks is terrific as a baby-book author having her first child — a woman in the full dramatic throes of the bodily-function awkwardness of pregnancy. Ben Falcone (Bridesmaids) is equally good as her doting milquetoast husband, though Dennis Quaid is stuck playing an alpha-male cartoon as Falcone’s ex-racing-star father (who is having twins with his trophy wife). Cameron Diaz (as a fitness-guru reality-show host) and Matthew Morrison spar painfully well as a couple who can’t agree on whether their future son should be circumcised, and Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro are touching as a couple out to adopt. There’s also a very funny pack of defeated dads who carry themselves like the living dead. Last and least, Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford act out an unconvincing, bite-size Knocked Up. What to Expect is sort of thrown together, but that’s okay: The movie hits authentic notes of anxiety and joy. B