Film Review: Pitch Perfect 2

The first Pitch Perfect was a massively entertaining comedy which included a career making turn from Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy. The story of the all female a capella group was well written, funny and featured a great ensemble cast, I’d loved it (it made #4 of my films of 2013 list) and so had MWG, so we were pretty keen to check out the sequel as part of my birthday weekend.

pitch perfect 2

The movie picks up the story of the Bellas two years later. They’re now three time national champions and there’s an end of an era vibe with many of the team including captain Beca (Anna Kendrick) and Fat Amy. They’re riding high until a disastrous performance for the President. The fall out leaves them banned from defending their title, auditioning new members and stripped of their national tour, which is given to world champions Das Sound Machine (DSM).

Das Sound Machine

Das Sound Machine

They decide to go to the world championships, despite being warned that no US team has ever won and gamble on winning in order to save the club. The only new Bella they can accept is Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), who’s the daughter of a former Bella and an awkward, nervous freshman who writes her own songs.

Beca’s focus is divided as she struggles to make an impact at her new internship at a record label and worries she isn’t talented enough to succeed. Meanwhile, the Bella’s problems are stressing out Chloe (Brittany Snow), who has deliberately failed graduating numerous times in order to stay in the club, and their attempts to outdo DSM cause more trouble, weakening the team unity and causing them to lose confidence.

Can the Bellas find their sound again? Will they be triumphant at the world championships? Will Emily ever feel like a true Bella and enjoy her time in the club? Does Beca have what it takes to succeed in the music industry?

The Bellas in action

The Bellas in action

I did enjoy this movie, and it does have several positives, but it falls far short of the original, which I feel maintains a more consistent gag-rate. The first movie also benefited from the relationship between Beca and Jesse (Skylar Astin), which was sweet and part of what helped Beca realize that she needed to open up and embrace the Bellas.

Luckily the filmmakers avoid the traditional sequel pitfall of throwing needless relationship drama into the mix, and Jesse is relegated to a minor, supporting and supportive character. This is quite refreshing as it allows the focus to remain on the ladies and I always find it annoying when a movie gets you to buy into a couple only to then mess with them in the sequel just for some drama.

With the ladies centre stage the major story is the Bellas and the friendship it creates. The team are breaking up as they all plan to go their separate ways after college and we also get to see it from a fresh perspective, with new character Emily arriving as things appear to be disintegrating and struggling to find her place in the group.

The movie is entertaining enough to keep it going and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments, but as is to be expected with a sequel it doesn’t feel quite as fresh as the original. The music is still good, full of catchy, toe-tapping versions of familiar songs and the villains, DSM, are a delight. Caricatures of ruthless German efficiency they’re not necessarily evil, just the Bellas’ rivals and it’s quite entertaining watching their ice queen leader Komissar (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) runs ring around the confused and intimidated Beca.

Anna Kendrick is on fine form, yet again, as the Bellas’ leader who’s still pursuing her dream of being a music producer, but who begins to struggle and worry about whether she’ll succeed. It’s an understated performance which captures the fears many people experience as they near the end of their time at university.

The rest of the Bellas do their jobs well, especially newcomer Steinfeld, who’s sweet and charming as the nervous new girl. Her budding romance with nerdy Benji (Ben Platt), is also rather adorable.

Emily with Benji

Emily with Benji

It’s also nice to have director Elizabeth Banks in front of the camera again as one half of the hilarious commentating duo, partnered with John Michael Higgins’ terribly un-PC chauvinist. This partnership gets some good laughs throughout the film as well, especially as Banks’ character Gail calls him on some of his comments.

The true star of the show is still Rebel Wilson, who delivers several of the best lines and gives the impression of having made up lots of things on the fly. Fat Amy is a fabulous creation, all sass and confidence, and one of the film’s strength is her relationship with Bumper (Adam DeVine), as the two share fantastic chemistry and bounce off each other to great effect.

Fat Amy in action

Fat Amy in action

It’s a solid movie, and it will keep you entertained but it never quite matches the original and there are a few gags that feel played out by the end. It’s predictable as well, but so is the first and so it never causes to many problems knowing how it’s going to end. Fun, but suffers in comparison with its predecessor.

Verdict: It’s great fun and Wilson is on fine form again, but it falls short of the original and lacks some of the freshness and charm. Still, it will keep you entertained and chuckling, and the music is rather well done. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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Film Review: The Lego Movie

I actually saw this a while ago and planned to review it sooner, but it kept getting pushed back for different reasons, but I wanted to get the review in before the end of 2014 and the yearly Top 10 movies list.

There have been a couple of games based on toys and most have been lacklustre (I enjoyed the first Transformers movie, but the sequels were woeful and Battleship was just terrible), luckily there’s this movie to stand as the best example of the genre. It’s quite fitting that a movie based on Lego, a toy all about creativity and possibilities should provide a movie that crackles with imagination.

lego movie pos

The basic plot of a regular Joe having to realize their potential is standard fare, but it’s where the movie goes with it that shows genuine imagination, wit and ambition.

The movie follows Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), a cheerful, dim-witted Lego man who lives a normal day-to-day life following the instructions that he’s provided with and never really thinking for himself. All seems good for Emmet, but one night he gets sucked into a rebel plan who don’t like that President Business (Will Ferrell), plans to use a weapon called the Kragle to stop the Lego world being different and inventive.

Emmet

Emmet

Emmet touches the “Piece of Resistance” a brick that grants the owner, the prophesied “the Special”, the power to stop the Kragle. The Piece was hunted by Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), an ass-kicking master builder who works for Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), who made the prophecy.

Wyldstyle kicking ass

Wyldstyle kicking ass

Wyldstyle is frustrated by Emmet’s stupidity and lack of imagination, and they doubt whether he is actually the Special. Aided by Wyldstyle’s boyfriend, Batman (Will Arnett) they travel across different Lego worlds and try to figure out how they can stop Lord Business from his evil plan, building to a climactic showdown.

I totally dug this movie, which is jam packed with wonderful graphics and a wealth of gags throughout. It’s a kids movie that truly works on two levels, with younger viewers loving the story and the visuals, but lots of jokes that might go over their head, the best example of this being the decision to have Will Arnett’s Batman being a bit of a douche, and the scene where he plays his band’s demo is a delight.

lego movie batman

The voice cast across the board are fantastic, especially Chris Pratt as the clueless Emmet, with this and Guardians of the Galaxy this year, and Jursassic World coming soon, Pratt seems to have arrived in a big way, and here he is on sensational form, with his vocal skills really bringing Emmet to life.

Morgan Freeman does his usual voice of wisdom thing as Vitruvius, and they have fun with this, especially when he makes his opening prophecy.

Freeman as Vitruvius

Freeman as Vitruvius

The movie makes little jokes about Lego’s history, with cameos from Lego’s Star Wars line and the plot having a slight dig at those Lego fans who just build once and keep them pristine, thanks to the live action section (also featuring Will Ferrell). The live action sequence is a bit cliche, but by that time the movie had built up such a feeling of good will in me I went for it.

From the start to the finish I was utterly charmed and it had me chuckling consistently, especially at daft gags like Liam Neeson’s split personality character Bad Cop/Good Cop. It’s a cheerful, vibrant and engaging movie that will work for all ages and is an utter gem.

Bad Cop/Good Cop

Bad Cop/Good Cop

One word of warning though, the cheesy song “Everything Is Awesome” from the movie will lodge in your head for a long time after, and recur frequently.

Verdict: An utter delight of a movie, filled to the brim with quality gags and strong vocal performances. It’s a fast based, fun and inventive movie and easily one of the better animated movies of recent years. Delightful. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

So yesterday I wrote about 22 Jump Street, which included two of MWG’s crushes, but the universe balanced itself out as we went with some friends to see this movie, which features two of mine.

mockingjay pos

Of all The Hunger Games movies this one was always going to be the most difficult to pull off. The third book is regarded by some as the weakest of the trilogy, which I don’t really understand because I really dug it, but I think it’s definitely the bleakest part of the series, and where Collins really starts to explore the effect of the violence on the characters and blur the lines between good and bad. There’s less action, and no central games to ground the story, and some will struggle with the fact that our heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) spends much of it traumatized by the events of the second installment.

Rescued from the games and discovering that this was the plan all along Katniss finds herself living under the strict regime of District 13, a vast, militaristic underground base. Feeling betrayed by her friends and isolated, while also unaware of what has happened to her partner Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) after he was taken by the Capital. Her only comfort is the presence of her family and Gale (Liam Hemsworth) her friend and hunting partner.

Katniss is asked by District 13’s leader President Coin (Julianne Moore) to be the face of the revolution but Katniss isn’t able to deliver the propaganda speeches well enough.

Coin (Moore) and her PR man Plutarch Heavensby (Hoffman)

Coin (Moore) and her PR man Plutarch Heavensby (Hoffman)

Former mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) argues that Katniss won the audience over by her own actions, and that it was when nobody was telling her what to do that people were affected.

Katniss is sent to view her former home, District 12 which has been bombed and agrees to shoot propaganda, accompanied by Gale, senior officer Boggs (Mahershala Ali) and a film crew headed by Cressida (Natalie Dormer), who has fled the Capital with her crew to aid the rebellion.

Katniss’ work stokes the fire of rebellion in the other districts leading them to revolt, it also prompts the Capital to use Peeta in several interviews to call for peace and for Katniss to surrender. Throughout these interviews Peeta appears to become increasingly listless and gaunt, causing Katniss to worry even more and fear that her actions will lead President Snow (Donald Sutherland) to execute him.

Can Katniss overcome her demons and become the face of the revolution that everybody wants her to be? Can the outgunned resistance hope to succeed against the superior forces of the Capital? Can Peeta be rescued from the clutches of President Snow?

I dug this movie, although it does struggle with some of the challenges it sets itself. First of all is the beginning where Katniss is reeling from the end of the Quarter Quell, I personally think Lawrence does a good job conveying Katniss’ damaged psyche and the scars she carries from the violence of the games. It’s believable that a young person forced into a vicious game of death would struggle to adjust afterwards and her grief and fear for Peeta is believable.

But for some this may be hard going as it’s quite a while until we finally start to see the fire within Katniss and she starts to show the tough spirit which made her such an engaging character in the first place. It’s good that the movie doesn’t just jump to her being a tough hero again as it shows that stress and emotional problems can hit anyone, regardless of how “tough” they seem.

Towards the end there are glimmers of that anger and passion, the steeliness which Lawrence has put into the character since the first movie and she continues to be a captivating and engaging screen presence. Lawrence manages to at once capture the battle scarred young woman and the unsure girl at once, and I found myself completely empathizing with her once more.

Tough, but damaged: Lawrence as Katniss.

Tough, but damaged: Lawrence as Katniss.

The rest of the cast are superb as well. Liam Hemsworth is still lumbered with the underwritten Gale, but he does the best he can and captures the character’s heroism while hinting that he may be becoming increasingly cold and detached. In one scene he’s shown to be thinking rationally and unemotionally while Katniss is clearly troubled.

Josh Hutcherson does well as Peeta, appearing increasingly wasted and dead eyed in his interviews, occasional flashes of fear or emotion reaching the surface before being stifled. It’s clear instantly that some unspeakable horror has been done to him off camera and in a handful of brief scenes Hutcherson does a magnificent job of conveying this.

Woody Harrelson continues to steal scenes as the charismatic, disheveled former victor Haymitch, sarky and at odds with the strict life he’s found in District 13, but still managing to capture the sense that he does genuinely care for his charges and is invested in toppling Snow.

Charismatic: Harrelson as Haymitch

Charismatic: Harrelson as Haymitch

Speaking of Snow, Donald Sutherland continues to ooze menace as the despot, and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman is on fine form as the PR officer Plutarch, a sheen of confidence which falters under pressure.

The PR side of the war is a theme that runs throughout, with Katniss groomed for the cameras and the rebellion’s attempts to turn her into a rallying symbol for the fight. The machinations of propaganda are shown, with both sides playing the game and often trampling emotion for effect. This is best shown in the case of Katniss’ film crew, headed up by Natalie Dormer’s Cressida, who is an icy presence and who is constantly looking for the best shot, but sometimes woefully unaware of the emotional effect it is having on those she films.

Dormer (crush 2) as Katniss' director Cressida

Dormer (crush 2) as Katniss’ director Cressida

The film works because it captures the issues of uprising, freedom and propaganda with some fantastic scenes of the rebels in other districts. It also manages to add a sense of unease around the militaristic District 13 and their cold leader Coin, played by Moore, who may be a little to understated to really capture the rebel leader’s icy, suspicious manner, which was far easier to grasp on the page.

The action sequences are short, fast and brutal, and shot with real energy, it may not be wall-to-wall thrills, but going on the books, Part 2 will definitely be more action packed.

I’ve heard some fans complaining of the focus on the Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle, and I understand that it’s been covered a bit excessively, but it’s still key to the plot, and why we’re engaged with the characters. The personal relationships are why we stick around, and to act as though it’s not important is to miss the point. We want Katniss and the rebellion to succeed because we care about the character and her life, and part of that is her love life.

To be fair it’s played well, and never takes away from the larger issues but the scenes where characters talk to Katniss about Peeta, and discussing her kiss with Gale hint strongly at where her loyalties lie, although Gale shows enough heroism and their friendship is so strong that there’s still a small element of doubt.

I’m going to finish by lavishing some praise on Elizabeth Banks, who is sensational as Effie, Katniss’ former escort to the games. In the first movie she was a over made-up and gaudy wigged grotesque, almost offensively chipper in her dealings with two characters off to kill and possibly die, but over the course of the subsequent films Banks has fleshed out the character.

Sure, she’s still around for a few gags and her distaste for the dour lifestyle in 13 is amusing, but Banks makes her human and oddly endearing. She may not be the brightest spark, but she’s shown to be compassionate and to genuinely care for her former charges, and Banks should be applauded for bringing the character to life in such a brilliant way. It happens in the books as well, but the screen version hit home more for me, and a large part of that is the performance, with Effie coming across as a dim, but ultimately sweet, refugee and one of the many lives effected by the uprising. Her confidence and smiling nature seems to be a mask which she doesn’t know how to fully discard, it’s also a hint that many innocents in the Capital will struggle with the new world the rebellion wants to establish.

Elizabeth Banks on fine form as Effie

Elizabeth Banks on fine form as Effie

Banks is one of the best elements, but it’s still a strong dystopian sci-fi movie with engaging, well rounded characters and I’m still eager for Part 2.

Verdict: Things take a turn for the dark, as the film explores how violence and death effects people. It’s also a good satire of the media and the role of propaganda in war. Lawrence continues to impress and the supporting cast, particularly Elizabeth Banks, do great work. Splitting the third book in half makes sense in some ways, but it does mean that this is the least action packed of the movies and Katniss is sidelined for much of the fighting. It won’t work for everyone, but for me it continues to impress. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


DVD Roundup: Ryan Reynolds Special

So, I’ve decided to have another go at working through my stack of unwatched DVDs and have divided them up into a couple of double features, based on theme, genre or star. Kicking us off are two featuring my long time man crush, Ryan Reynolds.

Kicking us off is rom-com Definitely Maybe, which sees Reynolds play Will, a successful business type who’s about to get a divorce. When he picks up his daughter, Maya (Abigail Breslin), she and her classmates have just received their first sexual education lesson, which has led to several scarred and emotional kids. Maya talks to Will about it and asks to hear the story of how he met her mother.

Poster’s a little naff though.

Will tells the story, but transforms it into a “love mystery” where he talks about his life and Maya has to guess which one of them is her mum. Will tells how as a naive, ambitious young man he came to New York in 1992 to work on the Clinton campaign, and of the three women who would come in and out of his life over the next few years, including Maya’s mother.

The three women are- Emily (Elizabeth Banks), his college girlfriend who he was dating when he moved to the city, sophisticated reporter Summer (Rachel Weisz) who he meets because she is an old friend of Emily’s and April (Isla Fisher), a cynical, argumentative girl who is also working at the Clinton campaign in the copy room. As he relates the story Maya learns more about her father and tries to work out which woman is her mother, while also starting to realize that the love of Will’s life may be one of the other two.

Who’s the Mommy?- Fisher, Banks or Weisz.

I really enjoyed this movie, it was quite a sweet, charming rom-com and the device of having Will tell the story to his daughter was a nice touch, which added to the story. There are several funny moments that come from Will slipping up and sharing too much, and its also rather touching the way that the two characters interact. Breslin is one of the better child actors I’ve seen and she does very well here, playing Maya as a likable, clever little girl. I really loved how the film dealt with the way telling the story effected both of them, causing Will to dig up old feelings and relive painful memories, while also upsetting Maya at times as she was given a look into her father’s flaws and failings.

Touching- Breslin and Reynolds work really well in this movie.

There’s a great dialogue exchange between the two where they discuss Will’s past and Maya asks “What’s the boy word for slut?” and he responds with “They still haven’t come up with one yet, but I’m sure they’re working on it.” Its a funny line, but it also shows her disappointment in her father and the double standard regarding promiscuity that exists in society.

Reynolds and Breslin work really well together, and they give a sense of a close parent-child relationship. When Maya becomes upset because she realizes at the story’s end that there is no happy ending as Will would go on to divorce her mother, and may well have loved someone else more, his response to her is wonderfully charming, when he tells her that their story did have a happy ending as they had her. Yes, its a little cheesy, but for a soft git like me it worked.

The romantic angle works well too, as at different times I was rooting for two different love interests, even though I’d guessed fairly early on which was going to be “true love”. The film is helped by casting three great actresses in the roles- Banks, Weisz and Fisher are all superb and do their roles well. Fisher in particular is on fine form, and is, in my opinion one of the best rom-com actresses working today.

Reynolds is sensational here, effortlessly charming and sharing good chemistry with all 3 love interests, while also really impressing in the scenes with Maya, which thankfully avoid being too cheesy. The character of Will is realistic, the slow erosion of his idealism and naivete, which also coincides with Clinton’s career path. He says and does stupid things, and makes big mistakes but they feel natural, not just plot contrivances, and they’re ultimately human, relatable failings.

A sweet, funny and clever rom-com. Good supporting cast and a great lead performance from Reynolds. 7/10.

Following this was the superhero effort Green Lantern, which arrived under a bit of a cloud- general consensus seemed to be that the movie had sucked. This was not good, I like the character and thought Reynolds would be a good fit, not only does he look the part but he could play the slightly cocky Hal Jordan comfortably.

This teaser poster suggested they might be onto a winner.

Hal Jordan is an irresponsible, womanizing test pilot who is a bit of an underachiever and slacker. He is sought out by Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) a dying member of the Green Lantern Corps, who passes his power ring onto Jordan, charging him with becoming the new protector of the region. Jordan struggles to deal with the responsibility, due to his own fears and lack of faith in himself and must also deal with hostility from fellow corps member Sinestro (Mark Strong) who is unimpressed with Jordan and believes him to not be up to it.

The Corps faces a threat from Parrallax, an immensely powerful being that draws its power from fear and is headed to destroy the Corps and Earth along the way. Can Jordan overcome his demons and defeat Parrallax? Will the Corps ever accept him?

Sadly, the film isn’t great. Reynolds just seems unlucky in never managing to land a true knockout comic book movie- the Wolverine movie where he played Deadpool fell flat and was a missed opportunity, and while I think its fun and it has a special place in my heart, I’m not blind to the many flaws of Blade: Trinity.

The problem here is the fact that they throw far too much at the audience, they have to explain the corps and stuff for newcomers, which means lots of exposition dialogue and a slow start. Perhaps they’d have been better off having Jordan having to go it alone and learn to master his abilities, and introduce the Corps at a later date.

The Jordan fear angle is okay, and Reynolds does well, doing his usual swaggering confidence but revealing that its largely a front for an insecure and scared Jordan. He’s likable and engaging, and does well in the hero stakes, but the film he’s in lets him down.

The special effects and the Lantern costume are a little lame, they’re too weightless and never feel part of the scene, which is a shame as the ring’s power to make things from the wearer’s imagination could lend itself to crazy, visually stunning effect which sadly feels like a missed opportunity here.

But the greatest failing is the final conflict between Jordan and Parrallax. Having been set up as this terrifying, extremely powerful threat when it finally comes down to the showdown its painfully short and easy for Jordan, feeling extremely anticlimactic.

Reynolds does alright, but the best thing here is Mark Strong, who’s a wonderfully powerful, charismatic screen presence and looks the part and adds weight as Sinestro, the Corps’ leader and best warrior. The casting was good but the script and the execution are extremely lacklustre.

Mark Strong as Sinestro- the best thing in the movie.

On the whole, it just feels like a massive let down. The Green Lantern character and mythos could lend itself to a good cinematic outing, sadly this isn’t it. 4/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO


Movie Review: What To Expect When You’re Expecting

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.

Not a happy ending.

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.

Kendrick and Crawford- Good chemistry but let down by the writers.

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.

The Dude’s Group- Best part of the film.

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.

Knocked Up- Funnier and sweeter than this.

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