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.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there was this actor. This particular actor enjoyed immense success due to his involvement in one of the greatest cinematic trilogies of all time. But, as with all the other subjects of this column, this actor seemingly fell off the face of the Earth. But did he actually leave our planet in search of galactic conflict in which he could intervene? Or has he just been using the force to remain cloaked and off our radars? Today we activate our tractor beam in the hopes of reeling in Mr. Mark Hamill.
Why We Love Him
Despite having an extensive body of work prior to Star Wars, few actors have ever been so inextricably linked to a single character the way Hamill is associated with Luke Skywalker. Star Wars told an epic adventure story in a wholly unique fashion despite the fact that it was borrowing from everything from American westerns to Japanese samurai films. The characters were legendary and found instant connection with audiences the world over, and heroic young farm boy Luke Skywalker was chief among them.
But it wasn’t just the success of Star Wars that rooted Hamill in that franchise. The first installment in the Star Wars saga marked the first time audiences had seen Hamill on the screen. Mark got his start on television, appearing in series such as The Cosby Show, General Hospital, and The Texas Wheelers. His only other theatrically released film by the time Star Wars hit theaters was Ralph Bakshi’s animated sci-fi flick Wizards to which he lent his voice. Hamill’s success story is the stuff of Hollywood dreams…or nightmares depending on how one looks at it.
What Happened to Him?
While many young actors fantasize about their first film being an instant classic, Hamill found himself struggling to avoid typecasting after the gargantuan success of Star Wars. Right after the first chapter, he starred in the teen comedy Corvette Summer and, in 1980, Samuel Fuller’s war drama The Big Red One. But aside from the next two Star Wars films, the 80s proved professionally frustrating for Hamill and the actor took refuge on Broadway, appearing in a number of productions, including Amadeus and The Elephant Man. He returned to film in 1989, but the caliber of projects available to him had dropped dramatically. His superhero flick The Guyver woefully called into question the use of the word super and Time Runner made us all wish time travel were real…so that we could travel back and tell ourselves not to watch it. It was clear that his star was falling.
Where’s He Been?
It was no accident that Hamill’s first official film was the animated Wizards. As his career progressed further into the 90s, he proved that he was an unbelievably talented voice actor. Hamill landed the voice role of The Joker on the phenomenal Batman: the Animated Series and his shrill, maniacal cackle—seemingly disembodied from the actor himself—became as indelible to the character as any other incarnation; a fan favorite to be certain.
Hamill would go on to portray The Joker in a number of other milieus including Superman: the Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures, and several Batman videogames. He also lent his voice to many other successful animated series including Johnny Bravo, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Robot Chicken. In fact, Hamill has not appeared in a theatrically released live-action film since Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back in 2001.
As frustrated as Hamill was to be typecast as heroic Luke Skywalker types after Star Wars, he managed to do such a great job reinventing himself through animation that he’s now become frustrated at being vocally typecast as The Joker. He has said that the upcoming videogame Batman: Arkham City will be the last time he plays the role. My hope is that Hamill makes a comeback to the silver screen because, though his voice work is in fact remarkable, his cinematic legacy is profound and he more than deserves the chance to extend it.
Rango may be the latest entry in an exceedingly long line of animated flicks featuring anthropomorphized animals but it’s anything but ordinary. The long-gestating brainchild of Gore Verbinski director of the Pirates of the Caribbean films and the first animated feature from Industrial Light & Magic George Lucas’ visual effects firm Rango staunchly defies many of the conventions of current mass-marketed cartoon fare. It's not in 3D; it's a family film that borrows heavily from such adult works as Chinatown and the post-modern westerns of Peckinpah and Leone; its oddball comic sensibility includes references to prostate exams and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as well as the more tried-and-true potty humor; and its cast of unsightly critters isn’t likely to inspire any bestselling children’s costumes come Halloween. It's an unusual strategy but it works: Rango makes for a delightfully strange if somewhat inconsistent experience.
Much of the inspiration for Rango’s skewed spirit comes from its famously skewed star Johnny Depp who voices the title character a domesticated chameleon cast by fate into the desert to find his true identity. He eventually lands in Dirt a decrepit frontier town that’s literally dying of thirst. The townsfolk of Dirt desperately need a hero and Rango a wannabe stage actor ingratiates himself with them by bluffing his way into a job as town sheriff. But Rango is something of a coward at heart and when a real threat emerges in the form of a terrifying outlaw named Rattlesnake Jake (Bill Nighy) his lifelong habit of hiding behind false identities and just "blending in" is suddenly and devastatingly exposed.
The film's narrative is a bit jagged structured loosely around a mystery involving the sudden disappearance of Dirt's water supply and the shady machinations of the town's corrupt mayor voiced by Ned Beatty. An overabundance of characters makes matters confusing at times and some of the action set pieces including a sprawling chase scene set to Wagner's "Flight of the Valkyries" (a la Apocalypse Now) are breathtaking to watch but do little to advance the storyline. The jaw-droppingly vivid animation is magnificently evocative of the frontier towns of the classic westerns: its dusty distressed aesthetic dominated by brown and beige hues will make you feel grimy -- and not a little bit parched. Verbinski does tremendous work with atmospherics in Rango manipulating space and light and shadow to create an experience more immersive than even some of the better 3D-animated films.