The title is taken from a well known parent manual, but its really just another frothy ensemble comedy-drama, this time based around pregnancy.
The film concerns various couples as they move towards parenthood, their lives crisscrossing and being interlinked.
First of all is celebrity fitness instructor Jules (Cameron Diaz) who gets knocked up by her TV dancing show partner Evan (Matthew Morrison). They struggle to cope as a couple due to Jules’ need to control everything.
A former contestant on her show, Gary (Ben Falcone) is also expecting after years of trying with his wife, Wendy (Elizabeth Banks). At the same time Gary’s father, Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) is also soon to be a father with his much younger wife, Skyler (Brooklyn Decker).
Baby expert Wendy finds pregnancy much harder than she expected, which is made even more galling by how Skyler sails through hers.
Also expecting are young couple Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford), old flames who hook up again, leading Rosie becoming pregnant, only to suffer a miscarriage.
The last would be parent is Holly (Jennifer Lopez) who after failing to conceive has decided to adopt with her husband Alex (Rodrigo Santoro). With Alex not ready Holly sends him to meet the “dude group”, a group of fathers who hang out with their kids on Saturday and trade stories and vent to each other. Alex befriends the group, which is headed up by Vic (Chris Rock).
The film follows all these stories as they deal with the challenges they face.
Where to begin?
This film is extremely hit and miss, when it works it can be sweet and amusing, but far too often it all falls apart.
For me, one of the major problems is that the film leans very heavily towards the women. Sure, its about pregnancy, but there could be a bit more balance. The only guy-centred plot line is pretty cliche, Alex’s fear and doubts about becoming a dad.
It pains me to say this, but one of the worst parts of the film is Cameron Diaz’s character. She is utterly unreasonable and controlling and at times a complete bellend to her rather sweet partner.
She makes decisions without him, rejects his input and suggestions and is flat out rude to the guy. Matthew Morrison plays his character with real likability and you find yourself wondering why the hell is he with such a horrible person, aside from the fact she looks like Cameron Diaz?
I know she’s pregnant and all, but I kinda felt he should dump her. Seriously, pregnancy is not a 9 month free pass to be a bitch.
What’s worse is that when they do reconcile it solves nothing. She doesn’t have an epiphany or make a speech for forgiveness, instead he makes a big sacrifice and comes to her. This is not a happy ending, there’s no growth or anything, just a crazy woman and her doormat.
Worst of all seems to be the idea that the writers think this is all well and good, with Jules showing very little remorse. Having a character look into a mirror and say “why do you do that?” after they’ve been a complete tool does not excuse them, in fact it makes them worse as they clearly know that they’ve done something bad, without trying to fix it.
The other major flaw is the miscarriage storyline. Both Kendrick and Crawford do very well, having some decent chemistry together and Crawford in particular being quite charismatic, but they’re not given enough time or a good enough script to tackle a pretty serious topic.
The early flirting is well done as is their fledgling relationship, but its at the tragic loss of their baby that the writers’ really drop the ball. The trip to hospital is done fairly well, but the fact that the news is broken wordlessly with music playing kind of gives the impression that they didn’t have it in them to write this dramatic scene.
At the very best this kind of ensemble piece perfectly balances the comic and the dramatic (see Love Actually), but here it doesn’t work. This heavy story is totally out of place amongst the surrounding froth and never really given much of a chance.
Kendrick and Crawford probably have less screen time than the other storylines, despite their story being the most interesting. When I reviewed New Year’s Eve earlier this year, I spoke about the fact that some of the plots could work as standalone movies, and this is one that could, as a much more honest, heartfelt work about how the loss of a baby can effect a couple, but stuck into this flick it just jars and feels horribly out of place.
It’s not all bad, as I said above Crawford and Kendrick are good and it must be said most of the cast do a fine job.
Elizabeth Banks is always an engaging on screen presence, and Dennis Quaid is Dennis Quaid, and oozes likability whenever he appears. Everyone does their jobs well enough.
Best of all is Chris Rock as the fast talking leader of the “Dudes’ group”, and most of the film’s best jokes and biggest laughs comes from this group. The guys spark off each other quite well and their stories of childcare misadventures are amusing, in fact I’m rather surprised to find out the film is written by two women, as these were their best scenes.
You can’t help thinking that a comedy about the fathers might’ve worked better with them bickering and facing different challenges in their own lives, but they’re kind of shunted to the side to focus on the Mommies.
You could cover all kinds of stuff in it, including the suspicion that fathers often come under in parks, which is mentioned in this wonderful post I read a while back.
Like I said this is one of the major flaws, as some of the gags feel a little old- mood swings, shouting in the delivery rooms, demands for drugs. Elizabeth Banks’ character makes a long speech where she tries to dispel the myths about how beautiful pregnancy is, and you find yourself thinking “Does anyone actually believe that anymore?” I mean, even with my limited experience I know its not a barrel of laughs, and her rant feels tired.
Its not an entirely awful movie, there are a few chuckles and a sprinkling of sweet moments, but its not enough.
The problem is that you’re constantly reminded that there are already better films out there you could watch instead. Want a good ensemble piece- stick on Love Actually, or even He’s Just Not That Into You. Want a comedy about pregnancy- Knocked Up. Film about men looking after babies- Jack & Sarah or Three Men And A Baby.
And thinking of films that do the same thing better is never a good sign.
Verdict: A frothy, inoffensive film with a few major flaws, most notably in Cameron Diaz’s character and the fact a lot of it seems to be going old ground. Ultimately unsatisfying. 4/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO