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Movie Review: The Back-Up Plan

BY MARISA WAY | APRIL 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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** 1/2 out of *****

When thinking about the film The Backup Plan, one good thing can be said: It was better than expected.

Is this a compliment? Well … maybe. Considering some of Jennifer Lopez’s past chick flicks (anyone remember Maid in Manhattan? The Wedding Planner? Gigli?), expectations for her latest film opposite Australian actor Alex O’Loughlin were anything but high.

The Backup Plan offers a few unexpected plot twists and a handful of genuine laughs — which is probably more than most critics and audience members were banking on. Despite these surprising moments sprinkled throughout the film, it can’t overcome the strong gravitational pull that many romantic comedies fall victim to. Ultimately, it is a movie full of cheesy lines, cliché characters, and predictable endings.

There is one easy explanation for why The Backup Plan falls into this mediocre trap: Lopez. Of course, there are lots of people involved in making any movie who could also be at fault. But Jenny from the Block seems to be the one constant that destines a film to humble earnings and less-than-memorable moments.

Sure, she’s probably good for a couple of easy millions, but do you think filmmakers would ever think to themselves, “I’ve got a really challenging role here. The character is multilayered, and the plot is an artistic masterpiece. I think this job would be perfect for … Jennifer Lopez.”? Uhhh, no.

The Backup Plan opens with Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) examining her toes in the doctor’s office. She has just been artificially inseminated, a decision she made because she has come to terms with the fact that she will never find “The One.” As she leaves the doctor’s office she hails a cab and beams with the possibility of pregnancy.

Cue the unorthodox meeting of the leading man and lady.

As Zoe enters the cab through one door, Stan (Alex O’Loughlin) enters through the other. They argue over the cab, both give it up to the other, and then both lose the cab as it drives away. Never before in movie-making history have the two leading characters had a more frustrating first meeting.

Eventually, Stan and Zoe meet again randomly, and love announces itself kicking and screaming. They bond over their past heartaches (“My parents died when I was young,” “My first wife cheated on me and broke my heart.”), and Zoe struggles with the possibility that her pregnancy might affect her chances with Mr. Right.

This is the issue at the heart of the 104-minute movie. The Backup Plan attempts to comment on parenthood and child-rearing. The film seems to dig its heels into the ground and shout: Parenthood sucks! Kids ruin everything!

This somewhat tired concept is enforced by Zoe’s friend, Mona (Michaela Watkins). Despite having four children of her own, Mona plays the overly exhausted mother who gives the impression of hating her children. The stereotype of children stealing the lives of parents is further enforced when Stan asks a very pregnant Zoe one night, “It’s just … I need to know. Are you still in there?”

Excuse me? One half expects Zoe to initiate some feminist-finger-snapping, but none occurs.

Overall, Knocked Up — I mean, The Backup Plan — attempts to tell the story of a couple who go about their life together in a nontraditional way and try to make the best of it. While entertaining at times, it ends up being forgettable. Like many parents depicted in the film, The Backup Plan leaves one wishing that exchanges were acceptable in all areas of life.

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