For the past decade, the concept of the ensemble comedy has shifted into a very specific form: namely, an anthology of loosely connected stories with a bunch of name actors filling the roles. At its best, audiences get something like Love, Actually. At its worst…you get New Year’s Eve.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting falls in-between these two, though it leans a bit more towards the latter in terms of watchability. “Based” on the best-selling pregnancy book (in that it shares a name with the book, nothing more), the film follows five couples going through pregnancy.
I’ll be honest: the stories themselves are all weak. While not necessarily as messy as larger ensemble comedies, the film does suffer from splitting its time more or less equally amongst the couples. Fortunately, the times aren’t completely equal, which gives some stories a tad more prominence.
Of the five pregnant women, the one who makes the biggest impression (and gets a touch more screentime than the rest) is Wendy, played with full dedication by Elizabeth Banks. Banks has never really been shy about going all-out for comedy, and she does that here, which lets her character stand out from more restrained performances from the other leading women. It helps that her storyline also features some of the more notable supporting cast members, including Dennis Quaid and Rebel Wilson.
Another reason to see the film at some point, at least for Atlanta residents, is to play a fun little game of “Where Was This Filmed?” Atlanta’s become a hotbed for filming in recent years, and What to Expect… goes all over the city. In some ways, the film works as a promotion for Atlanta tourism, including gratuitous mentions of the Georgia Aquarium, Delta Airlines, and a rather creative insertion of Piedmont Park’s Screen on the Green that the series’ promoters might not be thrilled about.
If you’re a fan of films like Valentine’s Day or He’s Just Not That Into You, chances are that you’ll enjoy this film, too. There’s nothing particularly distinctive about the film, but it works as a harmless Sunday afternoon diversion.