Using the formula so many unsuccessful romantic comedies have employed before it (looking at you Valentine's Day) What to Expect When You're Expecting wrangles a cast of big name stars but drops them in roles perfectly aligned with their sensibilities. Paired with a relatable central concept — one way or another we've all seen a side of pregnancy — director Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine) pulls off a comedy that's sweet poignant and most importantly funny. The experience of having a baby presented in the film isn't glorified or glamorized nor is it a one-person job resting on the women's shoulders making What to Expect a blockbuster comedy that delivers a little something for everyone.
Taking place primarily in Atlanta What to Expect bounces back and forth between a handful of couples with babies on the brain: Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) and Gary (Ben Falcone) are desperately trying to get pregnant while Gary's NASCAR legend father Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) is (frustratingly) having no problem with his trophy wife Skyler (Brooklyn Decker); Weight loss TV personality Jules (Cameron Diaz) takes home the top prize at a celeb dance-off at the same time she discovers she's carrying her dance partner Evan's (Matthew Morrison) child; Holly (Jennifer Lopez) and Alex (Rodrigo Santoro) are finally ready to take the plunge into the world of adoption but the actual process turns out to be an uphill battle; and Rosie (Anna Kendrick) a food truck owner has a wild night out with her competition (and former flame) Marco (Chace Crawford) that puts them both in a difficult situation. If you guessed she's pregnant you'd be correct.
What to Expect's DNA is a closer to match Woody Allen's Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask than anything out of the generic rom-com playbook. The screenplay from Heather Hach and Shauna Crossm is sharp with even the silliest and most expected gags landing thanks to the comedic talents of Banks Diaz Kendrick and the wicked rapport of the "Dude's Group " sporting Chris Rock Thomas Lennon Rob Huebel Amir Talai and Joe Manganiello. Even Decker who outshines her costars in Battleship holds her own taking the bubbly blonde to a whole other level
The movie makes a bold move to mix the less shiny moments of pregnancy in with the broad comedy and the results are mixed. Rosie and Marco's struggle with their accidental pregnancy takes a dramatic turn that doesn't feel earned in the grand scheme of things. Kendrick handles it with grace but pregnancy in its darkest moments require breathing room and with so many stories to juggle What to Expect can't afford it. Jennifer Lopez is the movie's biggest weakness a thread that never digs deep (or illicit laughs) from the roller coaster ride of adoption. The couple's predicament forces J.Lo to stick mostly to pouting and is completely overshadowed by the movie's highlights.
Thankfully those highlights are plentiful. Whether Diaz is spoofing Biggest Loser with her satirical take on TV personalities Banks is having a meltdown during her keynote at a baby expo or Rock is delivering a profanity-laden soliloquy on why dads need to man up What to Expect keeps laughs coming. Hollywood rarely gives birth to a comedy that's both hilarious and honest. What to Expect hits both chords defying expectations.
Mya Lewis Ben Clark and the rest of the humanity living in Terminus (a city of the future) are going about their lives late on the night before New Year’s Eve when a strange signal begins messing up their televisions cell phones and radios. At first they are just annoyed but then the terror begins as the signal begins to drive people to murderous aggression with random killings taking over everywhere. Some like Mya are not affected by the signal; while others like her estranged husband Lewis float in and out of crazed violence. As the story unfolds told in three segments by three different directors squirting gore abounds juxtaposed with surreal moments fantasy sequences and seemingly invincible characters that somehow survive grisly graphic death blows and come back for more. As the 24 hours of New Year’s Eve winds down the carnage slows a bit but the damage is done as civilization will never quite be the same again. The Signal is a low-budget independent film populated with actors you have never heard of mostly from the Atlanta area where the film was conceived and created. The best of the bunch is Anessa Ramsey who plays Mya with a nuanced compelling style that makes you want her to be on the screen much more than she actually is. Justin Welborn (as Ben her illicit lover) is also a discovery--a quietly handsome guy who brings a realistic feel to a film that is mostly way over the top. A.J. Bowen is a hulking presence as Lewis Mya’s relentlessly jealous and violent husband who will stop at nothing to find her and keep her by his side and Scott Poythress as Clark melds a bit of comic lightness into his role as one of the few still-sane inhabitants of Terminus--despite the fact that he has one scene where he has a conversation with a severed head. Overall the acting in the film is pretty believable no mean feat for a script that calls for the characters to maintain an almost constant state of fear or aggression. The Signal is a three-way project broken into three segments (called “Transmissions”) and each directed by a different person: David Bruckner Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry. They are part of the Atlanta-based POP Films (Gentry’s cult film Last Goodbye was the company’s first effort) and are long-time friends as well. Collaborating together yet each responsible for their own segment the three made the film in less than two weeks for under five million dollars. A 2007 Sundance Film Festival favorite there is much to like about the movie despite its obvious low-budget production values. Slightly disjointed and sometimes not quite following the plot points one of the others has set beforehand. In one scene there is an extremely gory murder of one of the main characters whose head is completely bashed to pulp only to have him miraculously reappear later on with barely a scratch on him. Huh? The three still have a ways to go before they can be compared to horror masters like Wes Craven or George Romero but The Signal is not a bad beginning and shows promise of things yet to come.