When a baby comes, life changes.
Perhaps that's why God gives expectant parents nine months to prepare.
What to Expect When You're Expecting, a fictionalized take on the best-selling self-help guide of the same name, chronicles the tumultuous passage from childlessness to parenthood in the lives of five couples:
Jules is a hard-charging fitness celebrity who coaches obese contestants on the weight-loss reality show Lose It and Weep. Participating on another reality show, Celebrity Dance Factor, she falls for her partner, Evan, and soon realizes she's pregnant. Despite her control freak tendencies, Jules adjusts her professional plans: "I'll help people get thin while I get fat," she tells Evan.
Wendy is the proprietor of the maternity store The Breast Choice and author of a children's book on breastfeeding. She longs for the day she and hubby Gary will have a child of their own. And then it happens … and it's nothing like she imagined. The much-ballyhooed "glow" of pregnancy never shows up in her body. There's no room for it, what with all the bloating, the stretch marks, the gas and the hemorrhoids. It doesn't help that Gary's dad, a former NASCAR legend named Ramsey, has married a stunning trophy wife half his age who's instantly pregnant with twins—and who experiences none of Wendy's struggles.
Holly and her husband, Alex, can only wish they had those problems. Unable to conceive, they've decided to adopt. When they get news that there's an Ethiopian boy ready for adoption—a year sooner than expected—Holly's thrilled. And Alex is terrified. Eager to help him embrace his inner daddy, Holly introduces him to the Dude Group, four other fathers of young children, a roving band of Snugli-wearing, stroller-schlepping pops proudly led by the parental-proverb-spouter Vic.
Finally, there's Rosie, the only woman in this ensemble cast who doesn't want to get pregnant. But when she hooks up with an old high school acquaintance, she must come to terms with the unwanted consequences of a drunken night of passion.
More than once, we hear expectant mothers describe the life growing inside them as miraculous. Wendy, for instance, juxtaposes a complaint about her body's physical changes with the reality of what those changes signify: "My boobs are killing me, proof that a miracle is happening inside me." Throughout the film, both unborn children and the young children of the Dude Group are valued and wanted. And the moms here universally see motherhood as a beautiful and meaningful identity.
Fatherhood is also affirmed … but in a more roundabout way. In some ways, the Dude Group represents, in typical fashion, dads as doofuses. Still, these guys are engaged with their kids. And they spend quite a bit of time and energy encouraging one other. They try to coach Alex through his anxiety, for example. And when one struggling father complains that parenthood is the place "where happiness goes to die," Vic fires back with a statement about the deep satisfaction he's found as a father. "We love being dads," he says. "When I was young, I thought I was happy. Now I know I'm happy."
As for the couples, there's often tension and conflict in their relationships. But all of them try to work through the rough spots. And Evan eventually proposes to Jules.
One other important relationship is Gary's damaged connection with his extraordinarily self-absorbed father. Ramsey's got lots of failings—such as his tendency to demean his son and his determination to beat him at anything that's even remotely competitive—but ultimately he tries to own up to those weaknesses.
[Spoiler Warning] The only person who isn't immediately sure she wants her unborn child is Rosie, the twentysomething who finds herself pregnant after casual sex. Marco defers to her, saying he'll support whatever she needs to do. Obviously, he's hinting at abortion, should Rosie choose to go that route. But the a-word is never used, and Rosie never seriously considers it. Marco then suggests that they get married so that he can do right by her. A miscarriage complicates things for a while, but the couple reconnects in the end.
Holly and Alex travel to Ethiopia to receive their adopted baby boy from an orphanage. They (and other adoptive parents in their group) repeat the phrases of this prayerful vow, which is intoned by an orphanage official: "I promise to watch over this child and to bring him up proud and strong, and as one who will always remember his Ethiopian heritage, so help me God. Amen." He carries a large cross and blesses each baby after the prayer.
Women perpetually wear skimpy, revealing clothing, including bikinis. Ramsey and Holly's "pregnancy" picture shows them cavorting together naked, with critical areas covered by a giant champagne bottle. Evan wears only a towel after a shower. The camera ogles as a man does one-arm pull-ups without a shirt.
Sensual dancing by Jules prompts one of Rosie's roommates to quip, "She's totally doing him." Rosie and Marco make out on her car's hood (he's on top of her), and later we learn she's gotten pregnant. When Wendy's ovulation app tells her it's time to have sex, she and Gary go for it in the back room of her store. (We see them disappear around the corner.) They also get drunk at an outdoor movie and begin kissing passionately. Later we see them climb out of the bushes with him buckling his pants. To convince Alex to join the Dude Group, Holly promises to perform oral sex on him. Another wife threatens to withhold sex because she's mad at her husband.
We hear guys voice crude celebrations of their virility, and women talk about how pregnancy and giving birth affects their sex lives. The words penis and vagina are mentioned frequently, sometimes biologically, other times sexually. They're also used as insults. An argument between Jules and Evan about whether to circumcise their son gets personal and anatomically descriptive when they start to detail the way the procedure alters a man's satisfaction during sex. Friends chime in with their related sexual experiences, and there's even a proposition from a stranger that gets worked into the script. Megan Mullally, especially, brags that she slept with lots of uncircumcised men on a European vacation.
Pregnancy causes Wendy to touch her sore chest from time to time. And that makes her assistant, Janice, quip, "I like to touch my breasts." (It's actually not an odd line from Janice, who makes several other similar "confessions.")
Ramsey and Gary engage in a golf cart race that sends golfers scrambling and ends with Gary plunging through a pool cabana and into Ramsey's swimming pool. Marco accidentally runs over a co-worker's foot with his truck.
Vic's toddler, Jordan, suffers a series of small indignities, which are played for laughs. He's repeatedly tripped or knocked down. He gets hit in the head with a (full) beer can, which sends him tumbling down a flight of concrete stairs. (We see the little boy slightly dazed but generally unharmed on the grass.)
During her protracted labor and before her emergency C-section, Wendy slaps Gary in the face.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word and one abbreviation of it ("effin'"). More than 20 s-words. God's name is taken in vain nearly 25 times. (Once or twice it's paired with "d‑‑n.") Jesus' name is misused at least three times. The tally for "h‑‑‑" stands at about six or seven, "b‑‑ch" at three and "b‑‑tard" at one. Various crude slang terms for the sexual anatomy are heard.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Social drinking (wine, beer, shots, margaritas, mixed drinks) takes place throughout in contexts such as Ramsey and Skyler's over-the-top baby shower and in bars. At the shower, a band cover's Jimmy Buffet's song "Why Don't We Get Drunk," the chorus of which adds the words "and screw."
Wendy has abstained from alcohol for two years as she's tried to get pregnant. She advises Gary that she'd like to take a break from being so intentional about conceiving, and the two share a bottle of wine at an outdoor amphitheater. Wendy quickly knocks back an entire glass, immediately comments on its buzz-inducing effects, and has another.
Before their fling, Marco and Rosie drink a couple of beers each (he's shown with two bottles in each hand). One of Rosie's roommates is visible inebriated after, she says, having too many tequila shots. Ramsey initiates a shot-drinking competition with Gary.
Ramsey mentions that doing drugs with celebrities such as Jimmy Buffet and Willie Nelson was one of the perks of being a famous race car driver. During her C-section, Wendy (who's anesthetized but conscious) says, "I love morphine. We should get some for the house."
Other Negative Elements
We watch Jules throw up in her Celebrity Dance Factor trophy cup. A child Holly has just photographed vomits down her back (offscreen). Wendy holds forth at length about—and sometimes demonstrates—all the messy biological side effects of pregnancy, including bleeding gums, constipation, urine leakage and uncontrollable gas. One extended scene revolves around her having a significant accident and trading outfits with her assistant, who's forced to wear Wendy's ill-fitting, urine-stained dress.
The Dude Group has Fight Club-esque rules: What happens in the group stays in the group. Not even wives get the scoop. And no judging—as in, no criticism when fathers fail to keep their kids from doing things like rolling off changing tables, eating cigarettes or falling in toilets (all of which are mentioned, not shown).
There's a passing, joking reference to polygamy.
True story: Last night my almost 2-year-old began to unpack her diaper bag in the living room while my wife and I were having a conversation in the kitchen. Shortly thereafter, she ambled into view with a sheepish grin on her blotchy white face. She'd gotten into a new tube of diaper rash cream.
As a father of three children 5 and under, I could regale you with weeks' worth of cute, messy and annoying stories like that one. You can't help but laugh. And you can't help but wish you'd remembered to put the diaper cream somewhere else. Anywhere else.
What to Expect When You're Expecting is a lot like that: cute, messy and annoying, sometimes all at once. It's pro-baby, pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-mother, pro-father, pro-breastfeeding … and profane.
There were plenty of spots in the film where I found myself nodding knowingly with the onscreen parents (or expectant parents), whether it was Alex's anxiety regarding becoming a dad or an end-of-the-movie rant from Wendy about how much harder her pregnancy had been than she'd anticipated. (I think my wife would relate to that one.)
But as comedies are wont to do, the film takes many other moments related to the pregnancy and childbirth journey and amps them up in cartoonishly ridiculous—not to mention vulgar—ways. My wife, for instance, had a difficult first labor. But she never screamed obscenities at me or hit me. Shocking, I know, since it seems like all women lose it like that on TV and in the movies.
So with regard to what moviegoers can expect, what gets delivered onscreen is a confounding concoction of crass content mingled with some moving messages about the miracle of new life and the joys of parenthood. One minute you're shaking your aching head over jokes about hormonally supercharged pregnancy sex or one of the film's many gratuitously graphic anatomical references. The next, you find yourself smiling—maybe even tearing up a bit—as a new mom stares with awestruck wonder at the baby she's just brought into the world.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Comedy, Drama, Romance
Cameron Diaz as Jules; Matthew Morrison as Evan; Jennifer Lopez as Holly; Rodrigo Santoro as Alex; Elizabeth Banks as Wendy; Ben Falcone as Gary; Anna Kendrick as Rosie; Chace Crawford as Marco; Dennis Quaid as Ramsey; Brooklyn Decker as Skyler; Chris Rock as Vic; Rob Huebel as Gabe; Thomas Lennon as Craig; Amir Talai as Patel; Rebel Wilson as Janice; Wendi McLendon-Covey as Kara; Megan Mullally as Herself
Kirk Jones (Everybody's Fine, Nanny McPhee)
May 18, 2012
Adam R. Holz Adam R. Holz