Since 1732, when Benjamin Franklin first published Poor Richard's Almanac, America has gradually become obsessed with self-help literature as a way to find the next quick fix to achieving that elusive "American dream". So it was only a matter of time before this multi-billion dollar industry teamed up with the big business of Hollywood to lift their "expertise" from the page to the screen.
Now if you saw/read He's Not Just That Into You, you'd have obviously learned all the relationship tricks to becoming the exception, not the rule (or is that the other way round?) and are now desperate to find the film/book that will guide you through the next phase in the pursuit of familial happiness. And here we have it, inspired by the New York Times bestseller of the same name and the first book in a series that has sold over 35 million copies worldwide, get ready for nappies and breast pumps because What To Expect When You're Expecting has arrived.
Starring Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Chace Crawford, Brooklyn Decker, Ben Falcone, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Morrison, Dennis Quaid, Chris Rock, Rodrigo Santoro, Joe Manganiello, Rob Huebel, Tom Lennon and Amir Talai, the film follows the lives of five couples dealing with the drama only impending parenthood can provide.
From the TV fitness guru Jules (Diaz) who thinks she can do it all on her own; the young couple Rosie and Marco (Kendrick and Crawford) who get preggers on their first hook up, and to the soon-to-be adoptive dad Alex (Santoro) who may just not be ready for fatherhood, would you expect anything less?
But what saves this movie from falling into the formulaic trap of the ensemble rom-com are the scenes following Elizabeth Banks' militant baby-author Wendy and the "Dads" play group led by Chris Rock.
Watching Wendy's sweaty disillusionment with "the joys of pregnancy" as (deep breath) her husband's father's younger trophy wife Skylar (Decker) basks in the glow of imminent motherhood is a testament to Bank's ability to balance comedy with heartfelt emotion. And saying that, a quick nod has to be given to Rebel Wilson; Wendy's somewhat low-rent but loveable sidekick Janice who alongside Banks lifts every scene they share.
At the same time, the Dad's play group made up of Rock, Huebel, Lennon and Talai offer a Fathers For Justice side of parenting, but less concerned with climbing buildings rather climbing frames in Central Park with their motley crew of kids. It's refreshing to see the paternal take on a subject normally restricted to the female domain, and my only note to the writers Shauna Cross and Heather Hach, would be to have cut the tedious "celebrity pregnancy" storyline to give more screen time to these guys.
Showcasing a cross-section of characters and experiences on a subject I hope very much not to personally deal with for a good 10 years, What To Expect When You're Expecting is a movie whose success comes down to how much we, the audience, can see pieces from our own child-rearing experiences. Although we've not all been the parent, we have all been the child, and even if the topic of baby-making isn't your cup of tea, I think you'll find yourself enjoying this film more than you were expecting.
In Cinemas Nationwide Friday 25th May (previews Thursday)