What to Expect When You Are Expecting

A whole ensemble of talented and handsome actors is underused, if not wasted, in the disappointingly shallow and rambling comedy, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,”

Structurally, the movie, directed by Kirk Jones, and scripted by Shauna Cross and Heather Hach, is shapeless, assuming the nature of a broad TV sitcom (it could serve as a pilot for a successful series).

The filmmakers are careful enough to point out that their film is inspired by, rather than based on, the New York Times bestseller of the same title, by Heidi Murkoff, the first book in a series that has sold over 35 million copies worldwide.

In the hands of a more skillful director, “What to Expect” could have been a more poignant, timely, entertaining chronicle of couples whose intertwined lives are turned upside down by the challenges of impending parenthood.

The first reel is decent in introducing the main characters. TV fitness guru Jules (Cameron Diaz) and dance show star Evan find that their high-profile lives don’t stand a chance against the severe demands of pregnancy.

Baby-crazy author and advocate Wendy gets a taste of her own militant advice when she gets pregnant. Meanwhile, Wendy’s husband Gary struggles with his competitive alpha-Dad, who’s expecting twins with his much younger trophy wife, Skyler.

Photographer Holly is prepared to put hard work–travel the whole globe—if that’s what it takes to adopt a child. But her husband Alex, who isn’t sure, tries to quiet his panic by attending a support group, where new fathers disclose intimate details of their experiences

We then switch to another couple, rival food truck chefs Rosie and Marco hook-up face a different dilemma, what to do when the first child comes before the first date?

When the book was first published, in 1985, it captured a new reality in an inventive and relevant ways, qualities that are missing from the movie, which is made a generation later. The novelty has worn off, and the filmmakers can’t find an exciting way to convey the wealth of information and richness of anecdotes that pervaded the book.

Since its first edition, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” has become a modern standard, sort of “the Bible for Expecting Parents.” It was named by USA Today as one of the 25 most influential books of the past 25 years.

Considering its subject matter and the caliber of the cast, it’s disappointing to report that the movie lacks energy and excitement. It just drags from one set of characters to another, and from one subplot to the next, and then it just ends.