Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The Back-Up Plan *
Director: Alan Poul
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin
Eric Christian Olsen, Anthony Anderson, Michaela Watkins
Melissa McCarthy, Linda Lavin
We all learned during high school that the order of factors does not alter the product, which is why The Back-Up Plan's intention to disprove this, or convince us it does, results in a disastrous romantic comedy attempt.
Lopez plays Zoe, a successful pet shop owner who one day decides all she's missing in life is a child. She gets artificially inseminated and as she leaves the doctor, wondering if she's pregnant or not, she just happens to meet the guy of her dreams.
This guy is Stan (O'Loughlin), an organic cheese maker with perfect abs and just the right amount of scruffiness to make Zoe swoon and distrust his intentions.
Of course she ends up being pregnant and the rest of the movie consists of how she breaks and makes up with Stan as she deals with her own insecurities.
The pregnancy then is merely a device, a McGuffin if you will, used to talk about the same issues romantic comedies usually talk about.
Whatever pretensions the film has of conveying post feminism, dysfunctional relationships and single mother empowerment are lost the moment the audience discovers it's actually using these subjects to revert the characters back to the same old archetypes we're accustomed to.
This wouldn't be a problem if the film was straight forward about it (most people know what they're getting into with current rom-coms...) but its notion that just rearranging the story will work, makes it disrespectful of the audience.
Lopez gives a satisfying, somewhat charismatic, performance, this after all is her movie (notice how there are no recognizable actors besides her) and she's meant to hog the spotlight at all times. She's not as contrived as she usually is (despite the film trying to make her too cute for her own good) and whatever serious flaws are found in her character are due to the poor screenplay which goes from the stupid to the offensive (Zoe's disabled dog isn't only called Nuts but his name sounds like a certain political party when Zoe adds a "-y" in the end).
This being the J. Lo show and all also robs us from the opportunity to watch the ensemble shine brighter. Watkins who plays her best friend delivers the funniest lines in the film and the usually funny Anderson has a character who doesn't even get a name...
The Back-Up Plan is as hormonal and irrational as its lead character; it goes from feeling like a Tampax ad to a parody of Sex and the City in less than a minute and audience members might not feel inclined to satiate its cravings.