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.
Alex (Gabe Nevins) is a disaffected teenager whose entire life revolves around skateboarding especially since his parents have split up. The high schooler is not even interested in his pretty girlfriend (Taylor Momsen) despite her willingness to lose her virginity to him. No it is all about skateboarding for Alex. He and his buddy Jared venture into a tough skateboard park known as Paranoid Park a place where much older guys are hanging out. As the story unfolds Alex returns to the park over and over again fulfilling his fascination with riding the concrete bunkers. On one fateful night Alex and an older boarder are involved in the accidental killing of a security guard in the railway yards that adjoin Paranoid Park. Will the teenager come forward and admit what happened especially when the police come to his school and question all the kids who ride? Or will he just devolve into a paranoid loner? “Acting” is stretching what Gabe Nevins is a disaffected teenager whose entire life revolves around skateboarding especially since his parents have split up. The high schooler is not even interested and the other “actors” in Paranoid Park are actually doing. Virtually everyone involved including Jake Miller Lauren McKinney Winfield Jackson Joe Schweitzer and John Michael Burrowes are all amateurs with Paranoid Park being their debut film--and it shows. The acting is so stilted self-conscious and downright bad that it is almost laughable--except for that fact that there is nothing at all funny about this film that belongs more on YouTube not on the big screen. Perhaps that is writer/director Gus van Sant’s intent but watching it go on and on is downright painful. Nevins stutters stammers and grunts his way through the film but at least he looks good doing it his only saving grace. The only performance worth paying attention to is 14-year-old Taylor Momsen’s (Cindy-Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas). She plays Alex’s self-involved girlfriend and makes a standout impression. Gus van Sant has made some terrific movies in his 25-year career. Think Good Will Hunting (which got him a Best Director Oscar nomination) To Die For Drugstore Cowboy. But he’s made some unwatchable ones as well--My Own Private Idaho and the incredibly ill-conceived remake of Psycho--and Paranoid Park falls squarely into that latter category. Using Super 8 and videotape footage mixed in with 35mm film Van Sant has created a film that looks like it was shot by the same teenagers that inhabit it right down to jiggly sequences out-of-focus shots and bad audio. The idea seems to be to deliver an experience that is the equivalent of actually riding a skateboard and in that he succeeds. But in the experience of seeing a movie it is simply annoying and ultimately incredibly boring to watch. Someone apparently likes this movie however as it won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. You’ll only like it if watching a withdrawn teenage boy aimlessly riding a skateboard while getting progressively more uncommunicative is your idea of fun.