Film reviews: What To Expect When You’re Expecting | Free Men | Iron Sky |
A FACT-filled, best-selling, self-help guide to pregnancy is the basis of this new domesticated comedy, a new level of desperation in page-to-screen that should at least grab the attention of Jean Marie Stine, author of How To Write A Bestselling Self-Help Book.
What To Expect When You’re Expecting (12A)
Director: Kirk Jones
If you take a book of gestational tips and fertilise it with a couple of sophomore screenwriters, the result is a cross between Love, Actually and With Six You Get Egg Roll, the story of angsty mothers-to-be and their partners facing parenthood for the first time.
Cameron Diaz is a celebrity fitness trainer whose rock solid ab wall is dismantled when she is impregnated by her dancing partner (Glee’s Matthew Morrison) on what looks like the American version of Strictly Come Dancing. Faced with parenthood just months after dating, they struggle for supremacy over names, upbringing and circumcision (worry not, they already know it’s a boy).
Elizabeth Banks runs a baby shop called Breast Choice, has a phone app that screams when she’s ovulating, and after two years of idealising the view from here to maternity, manages to get up the stick. Her husband (Ben Falcone) is delighted, until he finds they are being trumped in every possible arena of babymaking by his Nascar champion father (Dennis Quaid) and his twentysomething trophy wife (Brooklyn Decker). Banks suffers fatigue, weepiness, acne and gas. Trophy wife barely shows a bump at eight months although she’s carrying twins.
Across town, photographer Jennifer Lopez and her husband (Rodrigo Santoro) live on a financial knife edge, whilst trying to adopt a child from Ethiopia before Brangelina or Madonna clean the country out of infants. And at the teen end of the demographic, a food truck chef (Twilight’s Anna McKendrick) has a one night stand with her pork-burger rival (Chace Crawford) and ends up with a bun in her oven.
What To Expect When You’re Expecting is not the worst domestic comedy out this year – that title still belongs to New Year’s Eve – but it is so puny and under-developed that the babies look like prop forwards in comparison. Director Kirk Jones deals only in glib clichés, easily masticated and built to cater to the most primal instinct of someone with a free Friday night, which is to watch genetically gifted men and women look fat, clumsy and relatable. None of them is sufficiently detailed to sustain a film on their own, and like the bellies on display there’s a lot of padding to help the movie reach feature length.
One bit of flannel is clearly designed to make bored men feel a bit better about sitting through a film about pregnancy; a pack of smug babywalking men led by Chris Rock, who push their prams around the park to Notorious B.I.G.’s Hypnotize, and warn Mr Lopez that his fun days are over. The daddy dudes act as a Greek chorus – experienced parents who don’t judge if someone’s child swims in the toilet, eats a cigarette or gets knocked out by a full beer can.
Otherwise this isn’t much more than sketches ranging from slapstick to tragic, that hardly require a sonogram to diagnose what’s going on, and that the word “abortion” is about as likely to crop up here as “antidisestablishmentarianism”. It’s corny, phoney stuff, and lucky to have a game cast trying to carry it to term.
• On general release from Friday
Free Men (12A)
The rise of a young Algerian immigrant in the French Resistance is the focus of this satisfying Second World War drama, about a black marketeer (Tahir Rahim, right) who regards the war as an opportunity to make a buck then scoot. “Why fight?” he tells his cousin. “It’s not our war.” Of course, that’s about to change: caught by the Nazis, he’s blackmailed into spying on some Muslim agents who use the Paris Mosque as their headquarters.
The thug who grows a conscience is not a new story but the details are. “Inspired by true stories”, the mosque is forging false papers to help Jews pass as Muslims. Ismaël Ferroukhi’s picture could do with tighter plotting, while the secondary characters are a bit underwritten, but Rahim reasserts himself as a compelling actor after the stilted nonsense of Black Gold.
Filmhouse, Edinburgh, and Glasgow Film Theatre, from Friday
Iron Sky (15)
What if Hitler sent a unit of Nazis to set up a swastika-shaped base on the dark side of the moon during the Second World War? That’s the premise of this Finnish-German and Australian co-production that could have had Quentin Inglourious Basterds Tarantino weeping tears of revisionist envy.
The opening scene, in which two US astronauts make a lunar touchdown in 2018 and stumble across stormtroopers in space helmets, has been available on the internet for months, and demonstrates that you can make a pretty impressive looking movie for £7 million. As the rest of the film shows, though, the acting and script is closer to something from a Lidl’s clearance bucket.
This Finnish-German-Australian production had the potential to be a bad taste pulpy pleasure, but lacks the nerve to go over the top. A gag about Sarah Palin becoming president was topical about two years ago, and the rest is too grimly unfunny to sustain your curiosity.
On general release from Wednesday
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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