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'What to Expect When You're Expecting' (mostly) delivers

Elizabeth Banks, left, and Brooklyn Decker, right, in

Elizabeth Banks, left, and Brooklyn Decker, right, in "What to Expect When You're Expecting." Credit: handout

"What to Expect When You're Expecting" might be called a census comedy, the kind of movie that's based less on a story than on a statistical trend. That means its main concern is not plot or dialogue, but demographics: Do you see yourself on screen? Is your particular situation addressed? Does the movie "get it right"?

It does, thanks mainly to its large and likable cast. With 10 main characters and nearly as many smaller players, "What to Expect" attempts to cover every possible type of motherhood in America and very nearly succeeds. There's one glaring exception, but more on that later.

Racial diversity is less important here than a range of ages. Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford play post-collegiates in a family way, but they're yesterday's issue; director Kirk Jones ("Everybody's Fine") is clearly more interested in the over-30 crowd. Cameron Diaz and Matthew Morrison play reality-show stars Jules and Evan (she's a fat-loss guru, he's a dance-off type), who represent the career-minded contingent; Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone are average middle-classers Wendy and Gary. Dennis Quaid and Brooklyn Decker play Ramsey and Skyler, an aging NASCAR driver and his newest trophy, who are having twins.

Based on the bestselling maternity guide, "What to Expect" essentially uses the book's list of clinical symptoms as fodder for jokes. Banks gamely makes herself the butt of them, while Decker is perfectly cast as an annoyingly radiant mom-to-be. Screenwriters Shauna Cross ("Whip It") and Heather Hach wisely add a "Dudes Group" of beleaguered dads led by the excellent Chris Rock, a real-life father of two who's clearly been gathering material.

Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro play a couple grappling with adoption, but that topic is too emotionally fraught for this breezy film. (Ditto for the hospital-room scares, which provide weak drama.) The one demographic missing: single mothers. Well, maybe next census.


PLOT Five couples grapple with impending parenthood. RATING PG-13 (language, adult themes)

CAST Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Chace Crawford, Rodrigo Santoro.

LENGTH 1:50.

PLAYING AT Area theaters.

BOTTOM LINE Clearly calculated to pull in every possible pregnant demographic, but also genuinely funny and likeable thanks to its energetic cast.

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