With this weekend’s debut of New Year’s Eve, director Garry Marshall once more examines the rich tapestry of life, picking loose the many tangled threads of our individual, shallow sitcom-plot existences. But of course, that tapestry is being forever knitted, fed by the successive generations that will be born to today’s A-list and less-so stars, and who will then carry on that circle of contrived life with all its one-note plot points and simplistic relationship crises to be resolved in time for the big pop song montage at the end. And in between, we have What To Expect When You’re Expecting, an ensemble comedy about the gestation of tomorrow’s ensemble comedy, and also how that gestation totally makes women fat and moody.
Those women—Elizabeth Banks, Jennifer Lopez, Anna Kendrick, Brooklyn Decker, Cameron Diaz, whose character is either British or has recently suffered a stroke—will go through all the recognized stages of pregnancy as spelled out in the successful 1980s manual that’s being adapted here by Whip It screenwriter Shauna Cross and Everybody’s Fine director Kirk Jones, from marveling at their own engorged breasts to threatening to punch their husbands in the face to, in Lopez’s case, gazing covetously at African children like she’s Madonna on vacation. Meanwhile, the men—Chris Rock, Dennis Quaid, Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon, Matthew Morrison—have “dude’s group” meetings and wear Baby Bjorns and high-five about being goofily negligent and then laugh about how controlling their wives are, ohhhhhhh women. Then Chace Crawford stands around blinking and True Blood’s Joe Manganiello shows up and says, “What is this, a movie about babies? So when do you need me to take my shirt off? Now? Is it now?” And thus, the circle of life, in all its most recognizably human forms, goes on.