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‘What to Expect’ is honest laughs

By Sister Helena Burns FS | Contributor
Sunday, June 3, 2012

What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is a very well-constructed film. It shows excellence in filmmaking; excellence in comedic filmmaking, which is not easy; and excellence in ensemble filmmaking, which is even harder.

This is slightly more a guy or Dad’s film than a gal or Mom’s film, so I assumed the writer was male. Nope. The writers are two women. I wonder if they asked guy friends what they would say or do in a given situation, because the guy parts are the funniest.

I thought it was going to be another one of those “babies emasculate men” films, or a “being married is a drag, and being a dad is even worse” films. But, it’s not. This is a laugh-a-minute fun ride of a film that follows several couples through pregnancies (some quite unplanned) and births (with one adoption). Each character is unique and more well-developed than in most single-couple romantic films. Each scene is working overtime to delight us.

Is it crude? Yes, mostly in the beginning, and then it becomes sweeter and more real, and stays just as funny because it’s being so honest.

The best part of the movie is the real issues, problems and seemingly irreconcilable differences between the couples. They have dilemmas that in other films would be deal-breakers. But the “What To Expect” couples stay the course, and the big arguments and all-too-typical fights are resolved or semi-resolved in healthy ways. Genuine relationships are an ongoing process of give and take. We do not see this anywhere, and we need it so badly. Children of divorce don’t know how to deal with marital conflict and they’re terrified of it.

“What to Expect” prepares people for the grossness and pain, imperfection and uncontrollability of the whole process of having a baby. It shows how men and women need to overcome their false notions of being parents, as well as unrealistic “expectations” of male-female relationships.

There is warmth in this film, and it seems to be coming from a good place. The marital arrangements may be heterodox — of course all sex outside marriage is ultimately destructive and damaging — but the “spirit of the law” is observed. Abortion isn’t an option. Moral of the story: “When it comes to babies, there’s no such thing as ‘ready.’”