The Back-Up Plan

Release Date: April 23, 2010

Hee hee. I can't believe people are going to pay real money to see this tripe.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
100/123 David Mumpower Jennifer Lopez films seem to be feast or famine. Like most of them, this falls into the famine category.
184/190 Max Braden This is as paint-by-numbers as Hollywood gets, and that's an insult to audience intelligence.

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Fans of Jennifer Lopez will be happy to see her returning to the screen this April, kick starting a somewhat moribund film career with – what else – a romantic comedy. In it, she portrays – what else – a long suffering career woman who just can’t seem to find Mister Right. I suppose I’m being a little glib, but resuscitating a stagnant film career with a romantic comedy isn’t the most original idea, nor are most romantic comedies themselves. So to balance my sardonic wit, I’ll give The Back up Plan some credit and admit that the premise of this romantic comedy is at least somewhat novel, if not altogether innovative. Zoe (Lopez) is a hard working professional who for years has done her best to balance her career with her dating life. While one has been something of a success, the other – you can guess which – hasn’t been. With her thirties coming to a close and her romantic options looking somewhat slim, Zoe decides to go with her "back-up plan" – she enlists the help of a platonic acquaintance and a fertility clinic to try and conceive a child. But don’t laugh yet; the funny part comes later.

Zoe’s approach is certainly pragmatic but I have to wonder how well this is going to lend itself to comedy. I know several people who, for far more delicate reasons have had to resort to far more exhaustive measures to have children. It’s an emotional decision that most people take pretty seriously, so it’s hard for me to look into my mind’s eye and see where fertility treatments = comedy. Maybe that’s just me - it’s entirely possible that I am overanalyzing this, and I willingly admit that. Like I said, I’ll give the movie credit for taking a badly shopworn genre and attempting to throw a curve ball into the mix. Besides, it isn’t Zoe’s method of conception that’s supposed to be funny; it’s the wacky irony that as Zoe hails a cab outside the clinic she runs right into the man of her dreams! They begin a whirlwind courtship and fall fast for each other, before Zoe discovers that her treatment was successful; she’s pregnant! Where this would fill most men with something best described as blood curdling horror, Stan (Alex O’Loughlin) takes it in stride and decides to commit to the relationship anyway. Together, they experience the unpredictable highs and lows of impending parenthood and along the way, attempt learn to love one another the way a more traditional couple might after only a few months of dating.

No doubt The Back up Plan will play this largely for laughs, but I have to wonder whether or not Zoe had so much trouble with dating because she was more focused on her long term goals than she was on finding the right person with which to achieve them. And while I can understand not wanting to leave Zoe in the lurch, children are best raised on love rather than guilt. I have to wonder whether or not committing so soon to someone you hardly know is in this case equal parts nobility and desperation on Stan’s part. I’m not sure if that makes him Mister Right or Mister Norman Bates. I suppose we’ll learn the answer to that question, as well as whether or not this marks a new beginning for Jennifer Lopez. As I mentioned, starring alongside her in The Back-Up Plan is Alex O’Loughlin, best remembered by people like me for a brief role on FX’s exceptionally morbid drama The Shield. Or if you’re ten years younger than me, he’s best remembered for a one year headliner on Moonlight, an attempt by CBS to capitalize on the vampire craze that resurrects itself every few years (pun intended). His most recent film role was opposite Kate Beckinsale in 2009’s appalling Whiteout, and I sincerely wish him better luck here. A romantic comedy wouldn’t be a romantic comedy without the requisite "snarky best friend," and that role is filled here by television veteran Michalea Watkins. Watkins has been in increasing demand on the small screen for her comedic skills, so this is a part she shouldn’t have much trouble getting her arms around.

But without a doubt, the one under the microscope will be Jennifer Lopez. She is a woman of many talents but to be honest, it’s debatable as to whether her abilities as a vocalist are robust enough to sustain her career exclusively. As an actress, she’s shown herself to possess above average skill in flawed yet underrated material like The Cell, and the cloying but serviceable film that first made her a star, Selena. Lopez has a number of non music related projects upcoming, and her ability to release an occasional music single alongside her film work has helped her to maintain a noteworthy career profile in recent years. Time will tell whether or not her emphasis on film and television signals a calculated career path or it represents an acknowledgement of her limitations. I’m not sure whether or not The Backup Plan is going to be the project that re-establishes Lopez as a box office draw, as the trailers circulating for it are, let’s say somewhat underwhelming. But one way or another, J-Lo is back in the theater; let’s see if her fans follow her there. (Bruce Hall/BOP)

Vital statistics for The Back-Up Plan
Main Cast Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin
Supporting Cast Eric Christian Olsen, Michaela Watkins, Noureen DeWulf, Melissa McCarthy, Danneel Harris
Director Alan Poul
Screenwriter Kate Angelo
Distributor CBS Films
Rating PG-13
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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