Offbeat Mama Reviews: What to Expect When You're Expecting

Updated Oct 12 2015
Photo by pescatello, used under Creative Commons license.

Full disclosure: I've never read the infamous parenting guidebook What to Expect When You're Expecting. I don't know the chapter titles or what the book does or does not cover. I have no idea how many pages are in it, and I can't tell you what it says about any number of pregnancy-related topics. I can tell you that as soon as I heard Jennifer Lopez (my queen) was going to be in the movie version I made it my personal duty to a) see the film and b) report back to you guys about it. After all, it's kind of my job… right? I'm sure I'm not the only one reading this site who was at least a LITTLE curious about the movie.

So I asked my currently child-less, maybe Child-free BFF to go see the movie with me. I thought I would have to convince her to see a movie about being pregnant by offering to buy her many drinks while the movie was playing, but it turns out she was sold on the Lopez factor. So here's what a parent of one thought about the movie! Please note that this will be HEAVY ON THE SPOILERS. If you don't want stuff ruined for you… don't read. If you've seen it or don't care, read on!

I knew the movie would be heavy on the "Being a parent is the best thing the world you could ever want to be, EVER!" angle — after all, it's a mainstream big-budget film about parenting. I feel like it's worth acknowledging this, because in my dream world the film would have had a whole plot line about a fab Child-free guy or gal who was happy without kids, or about parents who admitted that being a parent isn't the most interesting thing about them. Having said that, I'm going to start with the NEGATIVE parts first, and end on a happier note.

What I could have done without

  • Dudes who can't be honest with their partners: Part of the film revolves around a group of dads who all meet up at the park every Saturday and stroll with their various offspring. They spend their time talking about how one of the kids is a spaz, swearing one another to secrecy about the fact that one of them calls his son Henry while the mom insists on a French pronunciation of the name, and fist-bumping/idolizing a beefy, childless dude who spends his time working out in the middle of the park. While stuff like this wasn't surprising, it was more than a little disappointing — it would be awesome to see a group of fathers who are happy being dads and not worried about admitting that from the get-go (i.e.: it doesn't take nearly two hours of a movie to get them to wrap it up nicely at the end).
  • Roughly forty-five minutes of the movie: considering it's 1 hour and 50 minutes long, this means almost half of it. One plot line revolves around Dennis Quaid's character and his twenty-seven-year-old wife who is expecting twins, and I feel very strongly that had they just left this out completely the movie as a whole would be stronger.
  • Rebel Wilson's character: at first she was funny as the assistant at The Breast Choice Boutique, a local baby store, but then I very quickly realized we were all laughing at her, not with her. Her character is repeatedly subject to ridicule that I didn't feel was necessary — when you're already watching a movie about babies you know there's any plethora of things pertaining to pregnancy that can be turned into funny stories. I don't think we NEEDED comic relief in the form of a woman with questionable mental capacity.

What I wish had been included or changed

  • At least one LGBT family: I didn't expect the movie to include a transgender parent (because this IS Hollywood), but I thought it would have been nice to have two lesbians trying to conceive a child via IVF or two gay dads searching for a surrogate. I think the movie could have taken an easy opportunity to remind mainstream movie-viewing audiences that these families are out there and that their family-building struggles and triumphs are important, too.
  • I wish the young couple hadn't lost their baby: Chase Crawford and Anna Kendrick play two twenty-somethings who have always been into each other but never hooked up. Well, they do and — surprise! — she gets pregnant. They decide to get together For Real and try to Do This Parenting Thing, but then she experiences a miscarriage. The rest of their plot line revolves around it being hard to see each other and things like that… but a big part of me was wishing that their characters had been able to keep the baby and see if they could make it work. Who knows? Maybe they could have been an awesome family together — whether through getting married, staying together without marriage, or just being really cool, young co-parents. Of all the couples in the movie, I felt like they were the most predictable choices to not get to see their pregnancy all the way through (They're young! They didn't really want a kid! And so on).

What I actually liked

  • The adoption scene between Jennifer Lopez, Rodrigo Santoro, and their new son, Caleb: I had mixed feelings about this entire plot line because JLo and her hubs opt to adopt a child from Ethiopia. Why the couple decided on international adoption instead of domestic isn't addressed (which is fine, I was just curious), and they mention having first tried to adopt from Guatemala before the country temporarily closed its adoption program. Though the viewer never sees it played out, their story hints at miscarriages and rounds after round of IVF, and there's a particularly emotional moment in which Lopez's character admits to feeling like not being able to conceive a child is her fault. So when they get the call and find out they're headed to Ethiopia to pick up their six-week-old son, Caleb, it's smiles all around. They arrive in the country and board a bus with five or so other families, and this where it got Really Interesting for me. When the families get off the bus I experienced this flash of "Oh shit, modernity is totally crazy" — six families from the United States get off a bus, each carrying their brown or blue or pink car seats, and walk into an building in Ethiopia that's on the less industrialized side. They participate in this incredibly sweet ceremony given in both Ethiopian and English, and presumably hop back on their bus and go home. It struck me how incredibly WEIRD but also SWEET and AMAZING it is that we live in a world and time where this not only happens, but happens fairly frequently. Also, I totally cried. If you're at all a delicate emotional flower, that scene will hit you HARD.

If you've seen the movie, tell me: what did you dislike, what would you have liked to see, and what did you love?

  1. I saw it yesterday with my baby group;The parents in our group are very diverse and we all enjoyed it because you could see us in the characters. The Jules character is my friend who the morning of the movie had just finished a 1/2 marathon. I was like the young mom having twins because nothing about being pregnant bothered me and I was so happy and joyful. Our other friend was the one who couldn't wait to get pregnant and once she was was kinda miserable. I laughed it was over the top but, hey so is having a baby. Overall I don't think I will sit through it again. On a side note my 7 month old daughter loves to go to the movies. My husband and I were the only ones in the baby group or theater, confident enough to bring our daughter to the matinee. She was awake for about 30 minutes at the beginning and was eating a bottle and then cuddled down to watch the movie and fell asleep after the credits rolled she woke up smiling and was happy she had a great nap. Other patrons in the theater told us "when you came in with a baby we were like oh god; but I never hear a peep;that baby is awesome." When you condition your child to be out in public and she is happy and fed you shouldn't have an issues with taking the wee ones along.

  2. It was entertaining but kind of a silly movie overall. Fertility treatments were mentioned in passing, and the only thing the writers seemed to have heard of was IVF (with no real idea of what it is other than it's expensive). The story of the loss of the unwanted pregnancy was predictable and safe, I guess because talking about the loss of a very-wanted baby would be too hard for the kind of light-heartedness this movie was going for – and actually showing the messiness that might be involved in two unmarried people unexpectedly parenting wouldn't necessarily make for good comedy (although Ross and Rachel did it). The dads storyline plays into the stereotype that dads are reckless/incompetent parents aka babysitters. Also, the only person to have a c-section almost died, which bothered me a lot.

    Basically, it was silly, shallow, and light-hearted, but I didn't have any expectations otherwise so I wasn't disappointed really. 🙂

  3. wow, I haven't seen it- this review was much more positive than my expectations, I'll have to check it out.

  4. If you're reviewing current parenting movies I wish you had talked about Friends with Kids instead. Not as mainstream, but really interesting and I'd be curious as to what this community thinks about the issues it brings up.

    • WHOA! I'll be all over this, especially since I just discovered Jon Hamm is in it. Is it out in theaters now? I can't find it near me, but maybe it's on video? I'll investigate!

      • Not sure, it may be gone by now. It's well worth a watch. Jon Ham's partner, Jennifer Westfeldt (of Kissing Jessica Stein among other things) wrote, directed and starred in it, they both produced it, and they picked Adam Scott (from Parks and Rec) to be the other star, as he's a friend of theirs. It brings up a lot of parenting issues I'd love to hear talked about.

  5. I have not seen the movie, and don't plan to honestly. Feature film comedy just isn't my thing.
    Anyway, I wanted to comment on your note about LGBT families. I think it would be nice to see more LGBTQ families reflected in main stream media — I might even go see more movies if that were the case — but remember that there are TONS more ways that LGBTQ people end up with kids than just IVF and surrogacy. We adopt kids, we have kids in heterosexual relationships and then transition, for many different reasons, to homosexual relationship. A heterosexual partner undergoes gender transition, but the family stays together, creating a same sex family… the list is as long as it is for heterosexual folks. I hope to see more inclusion in movies in the future, but throwing in a stereotypical affluent gay or lesbian couple making very expensive choices to make babies still leaves a lot of folks out.

  6. I didn't want to see this movie at all, because the trailer struck me so much as comedy based off of every "You'll seeeee" ever uttered. I also was struck with the impression that it would be the "women are uptight and irrational, men are grown babies" relationship dynamic, ala Knocked Up.
    It's verrrry interesting to hear that there's some depth to this movie. I might give it a go when it appears on Netflix.
    Also, Yes movie reviews! 😀

  7. My husband and I went and saw this last night. I'm 36 weeks pregnant, so just about everything Elizabeth Banks' character went through was hilarious to us. I cried when the young couple lost their baby (I'm 23 and my husband is 27 and we lost one before this bubs), and when each of the other couples welcomed their babies into their world. I found the Jules character to be the most infuriating. For me the 'overbearing crazed female' and the 'goofy, harmless idiot male' stereotype was the most frustrating part of the movie. I felt that the only couple that didn't fit with that were the young couple, and they lost their baby. That really sucked.

  8. Ughhh. Rebel Wilson. She's never been funny. People get all bent out of shape cos most of Australia hates her. It's cos she's not funny! Now she's got I think 6 movies this movies this year. Awesome.

    • I love Rebel Wilson but I hate just about every character she's ever acted though. Waaaaaaay to much laughing at her & mocking the fat lady bullshit and not enough clever comedy for me.

  9. I won't see it because I don't like supporting Jennifer Lopez. I know she has a lot of positive attributes, but she hit my major hot button with all her gushing over her chinchilla coats early in her career. I work with a chinchilla rescue, so it pissed me off. So it's just a personal preference, but there you go. Otherwise it's a film I would've watched once for amusement.

    I'm blanking on the title, but I remember liking that movie where the pregnant couple is traveling all over the country to find a spot to settle down. though I can see how that movie probably annoyed a lot of people with its shots at different types of patenting styles.

    • Away We Go. I loved that movie so much! This is what I'm saying. There are SO many parenting movies to talk about that are 1000% better than What to Expect.

      • I totally agree! I'm glad there's interest in this… I can totally make it a regular feature. 🙂

  10. We saw WTE this weekend and really enjoyed it (we are trying to get pregnant now, calling Shady Grove for consult next week). Sure, a gay couple would be nice, and yeah, the dumb Dad's was annoying – but it was a movie for entertainment.

    I find it interesting you didn't think the 27 year old Mother in Law was necessary. I thought that was the most realistic part (though she was a bit exaggerated). I feel like EVERYONE I meet has it easier than me. If I hear one more person say they 'looked at each other and got pregnant' or they 'missed on pill and had twins' I am going to go on a Clomid induced rage. Especially since Elizabeth Bank's character had a pie in the sky vision of pregnancy. This character was critical (and done perfectly).

    Did I cry when J-Lo got her baby? Nope. I sobbed. Thank God it wasn't a packed theater. I got ugly.

  11. "At least one LGBT family: I didn't expect the movie to include a transgender parent (because this IS Hollywood), but I thought it would have been nice to have two lesbians trying to conceive a child via IVF or two gay dads searching for a surrogate. I think the movie could have taken an easy opportunity to remind mainstream movie-viewing audiences that these families are out there and that their family-building struggles and triumphs are important, too."
    Thank you so much for including this. As a Childbirth Educator, Labor Doula, and lesbian mom, it gets really old to never see my family in the materials I have access to when teaching and to not have materials that represent the stories of all of my students (including single-by-choice parents). It's easy to feel defeated until I read posts like this and remember that there are a good number of us who understand the importance of representing everyone in the birthing world. Thank you. 🙂

  12. My husband LOVES being a dad. Seriously, he is a better parent than me and I am not afraid to admit it. We saw the preview and he expressed his distaste for the fact that parenting movies always portray mothers as baby-cooing, spit up-loving, husband-ignoring domestics while reinforcing the stereotype that men apparently hate commitment and parenting. We will not be supporting the movie.

  13. I'm surprised no one has mentioned that only the couple who opted for an epidural ended up with a c-section, and only that same couple had complications of any kind. Maybe I'm being too sensitive to the "great epidural debate", but I couldn't help but think that was some sort of subliminal message.

  14. I saw the movie and I loved it, but i do agree with you about the young couple. I didn't want her to get a miscarriage. But it happens in real life. I wanted them to try to have a baby again. But at least they ended up together. It would have been cool if she didn't lose it and they were able to at least co parent. I also did not like how the Dad's weren't very cool. They make it seem like there aren't cool Dads out there. I know some cool dads.

  15. What is with Dennis Quaid and having a younger partner who is having twins? Didn't that happen in Smart People (with his former student played by Sarah Jessica Parker)? I'm definitely gonna check out the movie Anna suggested, Friends With Kids…

    And Away We Go was an AMAZING film! Very Offbeat.

  16. I thought the film was funny and at time emotional. I took most of it at face value, however. The stories of the difficulties, humor, insecurities, and stereotypes were refreshing. My only issue with the film was how EASY it was for the couple to adopt from Ethiopia (My husband and I just went through the 2 year process to adopt an infant). Just as conceiving and unsuccessful IVF can be difficult and frustrating, adoption is not a walk in the park. The waiting list for an infant in Ethiopia is long. The process requires much investigation on the child's history and two trips to Ethiopia (the first trip you have to leave your baby in Ethiopia and wait for 6 weeks to pick them up). This leaves room for much uncertainty and heartbreak for your baby. I wish the movie showed how adoption can be just as difficult as conceiving.

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