Movie review: ‘What to Expect’? An up-and-down comedy
Published: May 17, 2012 04:57PM
Updated: May 18, 2012 11:05AM
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In this film image released by Lionsgate, Matthew Morrison, left, and Cameron Diaz are shown in a scene from "What to Expect When You're Expecting." (AP Photo/Lionsgate, Melissa Moseley)

Too bad you can’t watch “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” the way most people read the best-selling self-help book: by skipping the unnecessary bits and diving into the important stuff.

This comedy takes the “New Year’s Eve” approach to pregnancy, intercutting stories of five women dealing with impending motherhood: TV fitness trainer Jules (Cameron Diaz), expecting after an affair with her celebrity dance-show partner Evan (“Glee’s” Matthew Morrison); baby-store owner Wendy (Elizabeth Banks), finally pregnant after years of trying with nebbish husband Gary (“Bridesmaids’” Ben Falcone); Skylar (Brooklyn Decker), trophy wife of Gary’s overcompetitive father, Ramsey (Dennis Quaid); Rosie (Anna Kendrick), a young chef knocked up after a one-night stand with a rival food-truck operator, Marco (Chace Crawford); and Holly (Jennifer Lopez), a photographer seeking with her husband, Alex (Rodrigo Santoro), to adopt an orphan from Ethiopia.

Screenwriters Shauna Cross (“Whip It”) and Heather Hach (“Freaky Friday”) load up the predictable jokes about stretch marks, bladder pressure and tender nipples — and draw some good humor by creating “the Dudes Group,” a confab of stroller-pushing papas led by the always-funny Chris Rock.

Director Kirk Jones (“Nanny McPhee,” “Waking Ned Devine”) balances the humor with the serious bits well, but has a harder time balancing the over-the-top performances (by Diaz and Quaid, especially) with the more subtle storylines (notably in Kendrick’s fine performance).

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‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’

Opens today at theaters everywhere; rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language; 110 minutes.