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Movies

Dads deliver laughs in 'What to Expect'

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 02:45 PM

If only "What to Expect When You're Expecting" had focused on the dads' group, and didn't just drop in on them a handful of times, we might have been onto something here.

Chris Rock, Thomas Lennon and Rob Huebel are among the dudes who meet regularly to push their kids in tricked-out strollers, tote them in high-end carriers and talk guy stuff in a confidential setting away from the wives.

Their no-nonsense banter and their unabashed worship of the buff, shirtless jogger who frequents their Atlanta park liven up what is a rather predictable and cliched depiction of pregnancy.

A good-looking cast of popular actors can do only so much with material that's superficial and sitcommy. Director Kirk Jones' film is "inspired by" the Heidi Murkoff advice book of the same name, one that every single pregnant woman on the planet surely has read since its initial publication in 1985.

There are some laughs here and there and a few moments of honesty. Elizabeth Banks' character begins to touch on something relatable; an author and owner of a breastfeeding boutique, she finds her militant stances hard to maintain once she becomes pregnant.

More often, we get the kind of contrived, shrieky wackiness that breaks out when all the pregnant women whose stories we've been following just happen to give birth at the same hospital on the same night. Being crowd-pleasing was more important that being truthful.

We begin with Cameron Diaz as Jules, a fitness expert and the host of a "Biggest Loser"-style reality show. She didn't expect to be expecting with Evan (Matthew Morrison), her partner on a "Dancing with the Stars"-style reality show, but now these two must find a way to juggle a baby along with their new relationship and high-profile careers.

Jennifer Lopez plays Holly, a photographer who's been trying for years to conceive with her husband, Alex (Rodrigo Santoro), with no luck. They're hoping to adopt an orphan from Ethiopia, an emotionally intense, life-changing moment for which Lopez's character apparently felt the need to wear fake eyelashes.

Banks' Wendy also has been trying to have a baby for a while with her husband, Gary (Ben Falcone). Once the test finally comes up positive and they go to tell Gary's father (Dennis Quaid), an arrogant former NASCAR legend, they find that dad and his new trophy wife (Brooklyn Decker) also have gotten pregnant — with no trouble at all.

Then there's the twentysomething Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford), competing food-truck entrepreneurs and former high school classmates who weren't all that careful when they finally gave into their flirtations one night.

Jones bops around among all these stories at a steady pace and only finds real energy when he comes back to the dads' group, which Alex joins in preparation for fatherhood.

Within seconds of watching Rock riff on what it's really like to be a parent, you get a glimpse of how good this movie might have been. Instead, you should probably keep your expectations in check.

'WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING'

Movie review

Rating: 2 stars

Stars: Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Matthew Morrison, Chris Rock and Dennis Quaid

Info: Running time: 110 minutes

Rated PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language)

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