What’s in the Hollywood water supply? First, director Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), who should know better, clones himself as Michael Bay with Battleship. Now Kirk Jones (Waking Ned Devine) does a Freaky Friday body switch, becoming director Garry Marshall with the still-born What To Expect When You’re Expecting, an all-star dud that could be easily confused with Marshall’s Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, except for the absence of Ashton Kutcher. Based on Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel’s best-selling 1984 pregnancy manual, but only in the sense that book and film share the same title, What-When hustles its five main expectant couples to the starting gate, saddles them with clichés, and whips the fire out of them.
And we’re off: Fitness guru Cameron Diaz pairs off with her TV dancing partner Matthew Morrison. Baby photographer Jennifer Lopez, who can’t conceive, plans an Ethiopian adoption with hubby Rodrigo Santoro. Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford operate dueling food trucks before they, um, operate on each other. Maternity expert Elizabeth Banks and her chubby hubby Ben Falcone struggle to conceive while his race car driver daddy, Dennis Quaid, knocks up trophy wife Brooklyn Decker almost instantly. If What-When rises slightly above Marshall’s sinkhole level, thank Chris Rock as the leader of a dads group. Rock actually earns his laughs. With one child strapped to his chest, Rock advises the other dads not to contemplate the cost of college. Before choosing denial, he says, “I cried in my car for hour.” Rock is the one bonus in a movie that works best only if you dramatically drop your expectations. I appreciated Kendrick and Chase for staying low-key. The rest of the cast takes the opposite tack. Morning sickness afflicts most of the potential mommies. For me, the movie itself triggered the vomiting.