Filled to capacity with recognizable movie stars, Hollywood’s multi-storyline romcom can too often feel like a bad answer to a joke about how many A-list actors and actresses it takes to make a bad romantic comedy.
Out of six to eight intersecting storylines, one or two might actually hit a chord of originality. Out of twelve characters, only one or two will actually resemble real people. Out of six to eight romantic or familial pairings, you’ll be lucky if half have believable chemistry. And in the end, what you get is little more than one gigantic, convoluted, over-dramatic, and cheesy cliché.
As for where What to Expect When You’re Expecting falls within that category? Let’s just say that while it certainly isn’t the witty British gem that was 2003’s Love Actually, neither is it anywhere near as bad as last year’s disaster that was New Year’s Eve.
Based on the pregnancy manual What to Expect When You’re Expecting, WTEWYE gains an advantage over many of its Hollywood predecessors right off the bat through the simple fact that it actually isn’t a romantic comedy. With most couples already set when the movie begins, less about will-they-or-won’t-they, this is a movie that looks at relationships more in the light of evolution, of moving from husband and wife to mother and father, from couples tied by very little to couples joined by an entire life.
Like most multi-storyline romcoms, WTEWYE also does its best to depict a variety of experiences—including long-sought-after pregnancies, unexpected pregnancies, and adoption—across the life event that is pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood. Steering clear of spelling things out quite as much as the advice manual which inspired He’s Just Not That Into You, it even manages to use its various narratives to hit on many of the physical realities described in the book and involved in being pregnant and giving birth.
Primarily through its male characters, WTEWYE also deals with the emotional journey involved in going from childless to the parent of a real live human being. And with an added adult parent-child relationship in the mix, it also humorously and honestly looks at the impact that continued emotional and relational journey can have as it continues to play out.
For a multiple-storyline comedy, it also manages to do a relatively good job of weaving its characters and stories together in ways that actually seem somewhat natural. And taking an almost forced detour from its mostly light-comic feel, the only plot elements which feel slightly forced and over-dramatic (even if it nods to very real situations) are several situations which address less humorous and more dire physical complications that may arise during pregnancy and childbirth.
For the most part, however, WTEWYE is really just a lightweight, funny, and enjoyably cheesy look at the journey that is bringing a life into this world. And while none of its stories or lines may be particularly unique or memorable, days later, there are scenes, looks, and the emotions conveyed within them that still stick with me.