Like parenthood itself, it all starts out promisingly enough. Cameron Diaz learns she's pregnant on a Dancing With The Stars-like show by shocking herself with spontaneously vomit into a glass victory cup. In another scene Elizabeth Banks announces her own pregnancy to husband Ben Falcone (Mr. Melissa McCarthy, by the way; he was the air marshall she seduced in Bridesmaids). Then he shouts, "MY BALLS WORK!" I understand that my enthusiasm for humor related to scrotums and throw-up mark me as possibly the wrong audience for a movie like this, but I was full of hope all the same. And then my enthusiasm was starved to death over the course of the next 110 minutes, so the film did, ultimately, showed me who was boss.
I'm willing to accept that my sense of humor isn't a good fit for what wound up on the screen. And I say that because I watched it alongside an especially excited and laugh-ready audience, the most good-fittinest people the internet could find, I guess. They hooted. They hollered. They shriek-laughed. They gasped, "OH NO!" whenever anything -- and I mean anything -- even remotely uncertain befell any character, so long as it wasn't actual tragedy. Is Banks's water breaking? OH NO! Is Chris Rock's toddler running amok with a big stick or stiff-dead cat? OH NO! Is Falcone about to drive a golf cart into Quaid's swimming pool for no reason? OH NO! It went on and on like that. And again, maybe this could all be my problem.
Wait. No it's not. This stupid movie is the problem.
The very large ensemble cast -- Diaz, Banks, Falcone, Jennifer Lopez, Chace Crawford, Brooklyn Decker, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Morrison, Dennis Quaid, Chris Rock, Rodrigo Santoro, Joe Manganiello, Thomas Lennon and some others I'm forgetting -- are all expecting a child in one way or another. These stories run 3:1 bland comedy to uncomfortable drama, where one minute Quaid is mugging for the camera and happily making out with Decker, the next Banks has messy hair and sloppy clothes, or a posse of wannabe-tough fathers stroll their spawn through the park on their weekly Daddy's Day Out, trash-talking each other in that neutered way men do in a PG-13 film about babies. And none of it's really funny, nothing observed feels fresh, nothing shown hasn't been shown before (for example, almost all ladies turn into frothing maniacs during childbirth, as seen in every other pregnancy comedy ever made). It's as though the film itself were child-proofed for safety.
But in the middle of these misfiring moments of mediocre comedy is another movie, one starring Anna Kendrick and Jennifer Lopez, both of whom are dealing with their own journeys toward motherhood. Their stories are discrete, never touching one another directly, and without getting into the details too deeply, directly address anxiety, ambivalence, loss and fear in an affecting batch of scenes that are as moving and real as the rest of film is trite and meaningless. It's as if Kendrick took the script, ignored everything that wasn't for her and decided to attempt the fireman-carry that sometimes happens when one or two genuine performances struggle to save a movie. Lopez, for her part, was probably still smarting from that rotten Back-Up Plan and determined to get a meaty, real-conflict-addressing role in this one. When her character loses her job and her eggs won't cooperate, suddenly everything becomes very true. And when she cries, it's enough to make you forget every terrible thing she was ever in after appearing in Out Of Sight, including Gigli.
But what do I know? The audience didn't gasp OH NO! for those two or their troubles. Not once.