That fear becomes palpable when Momo does indeed become pregnant, and Kate steps in to steer Momo toward making the right choice about her pregnancy, advising her on the joys of motherhood. However, things in Kate’s world aren’t exactly going according to plan. She’s dealing with a crisis of her own: Jack is falling for her, and she’s not exactly offended by his advances.

Although I Don’t Know How She Does It has an arguably conservative message, it arrives at that message very gradually, while reserving any judgment of its characters’ actions. A pregnant Momo bemoans her failed birth control, but never expresses regret over her sexually active lifestyle (nor does the film make any serious attempt to explore the difficulties of being a single mom). Even after Kate’s story wraps up, there’s a crude joke about another character’s new sexual relationship. Some viewers will have more tolerance for these jokes than will others.

Whatever the film’s message, it plays out in a rather flabby manner. A romantic subplot between Kate and Jack generates little heat, and the script’s jokes about the mommy wars, which may have seemed fresh when the book was published nearly a decade ago, now feel stale. Most egregious is the film’s repeated return to a character who spews her venomous comments directly to the camera about the type of women she can’t stand, all while working out at a gym. Neither funny nor particularly cutting, these scenes add nothing thematically that isn’t already conveyed elsewhere in the film, and we wonder why the material didn’t end up on the cutting-room floor.

Is the film worth seeing? It does settle on a fairly conservative message about family life, but it has a hard time portraying any of its characters’ possible decisions as morally wrong. Parker gives a surprisingly pleasant comic performance as Kate—the way she handles a head lice attack shows that the actress has a knack for physical comedy—but none of the other cast members distinguish themselves. Director Douglas McGrath (Infamous, Nicholas Nickleby) trots out every trick he can think of to bring the material to life—voice-over narration, freeze frame, direct address—but the film still strains to find the right tone in its early scenes. Those who stick it out will see a story that feels inconsequential. It’s not a particularly painful film, nor is it particularly memorable.

Conservative themes are nice to encounter in a Hollywood movie, but they’re not enough to justify an unqualified recommendation. At best, I Don’t Know How She Does It is a trifle with some nice takeaway messages, but that doesn’t make up for the film’s shortcomings. Even its admirers will forget the film by the time next weekend’s new releases open.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; “hell”; “s-it”; “a-shole”; reference to oral sex and suggested connotations of signing an email with “XO.”
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Beer and wine consumption; mention of a death during a drug deal.
  • Sex/Nudity: Kate and Richard kiss and discuss having sex, but Kate falls asleep; a man watches an erotic dancer, but we see only the lower part of the dancer’s legs; woman makes a crude reference to her lover’s anatomy; Jack kisses Kate on the cheek; discussion of failed birth control in an out-of-wedlock relationship.
  • Violence/Crime: Discussion of possible abortion.
  • MarriageKate and Richard’s marriage is strained by their lack of time together; their daughter resents Kate’s travels for work.
     

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.