Mark Reviews Movies


 Star (out of 4)

Director: Alan Poul

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin, Michaela Watkins, Eric Christian Olsen, Anthony Anderson, Noureen DeWulf, , Linda Lavin, Tom Bosley, Robert Klein, Melissa McCarthy, Maribeth Monroe

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content including references, some crude material and language)

Running Time: 1:42

Release Date: 4/23/10

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Review by Mark Dujsik | April 22, 2010

There is not a laugh, nay, a smile, to be had watching The Back-up Plan. Here's the movie's first joke, just so one can get an idea. Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) is at the gynecologist, staring at her feet, wishing she had gotten a pedicure as she undergoes an artificial insemination procedure. If she had been on a date, she would have paid more attention to her feet, and after all, in her mind, this is kind of like a date. Her sense of logic isn't the sharpest, but that's something to focus on later.

Anyway, Zoe apologies to her doctor (Robert Klein) for the appearance of her toes. "I'm not looking at your toes," the doc says, "I'm looking at your cervix."

A perfectly timed, audible groan from the front row steals the laugh here, although the old maxim about a baby with candy comes to mind in this instance.

The Back-up Plan is an embarrassing comedy, a painful romance, and a truly insufferable romantic comedy.

Zoe has decided to have a baby on her own, she relates in voice-over, because she has yet to meet "the one."  Zoe fits squarely into the old, familiar routine of a movie heroine whose life revolves around the absence of a man. When she finally confesses that her deepest, most heartfelt reason to have a child in the first place is because of fear that she will be left alone once her grandmother (Linda Lavin) dies, she reveals an inherent selfishness, too.

The same day she undergoes the procedure, she meets Stan (Alex O'Loughlin) when they both enter and fight over the same taxi. Zoe meets Stan again while at a farmer's market with her obnoxious friend Mona (Michaela Watkins), she of constant professions of hating her children, where he runs a stand for his cheese farm.

Stan is smitten; Zoe is wary. Screenwriter Kate Angelo continues this trivial characterization dance for the majority of the movie's length.

He tries to impress Zoe with his charm, a pizza dinner in a public garden, and his quick revelation that he was once married but she cheated on him and he has tried not to blame all women for his ex's "whorish ways."  Some might say this is too much information, while others might go further and say this is just the right amount of information for Zoe to realize this might not be the most stable man to introduce into her life at this moment.

He's a charmer, though, this one, who, when he finds out his new girlfriend is pregnant, storms out of the barn where they first have sex (very romantic) after yelling at her for lying to him. The next morning, though, he's fine, although he doesn't quite grasp the irony of his withholding his status as a night school student. See, Stan worries a successful woman like her would think less of him for going to school. He's charming in a mistrustful, indecisive sort of way, and he's not the brightest star in the sky either.

Still, Zoe thinks Stan's a keeper. She's got issues of her own beyond being a future mother with a boyfriend who has unpredictable mood swings. Her mother died when she was young, and her dad left while mom was in a coma. She's distrustful and indecisive, too, which makes them a great couple to raise a kid.

They fight and make up quickly (The scene after Zoe leaves the farm, convinced she's done with Stan, has the two reuniting). Stan repeatedly gets cold feet, Zoe questions whether or not he's ready to be a father (Answer the movie never reaches: He's not), they argue, and it's all fine and dandy. It's repeated over and over.

The characterizations are inconsistent (Her guy friend (Eric Christian Olsen) dismisses her, then spends the rest of the movie acting like a jealous, spurned admirer), and the conflict is steady and overdone. When the single mothers' group Zoe joins finds out she has a boyfriend, they express concern about her membership and put it to a vote. Out of the blue, she runs into members of the group who reveal they unanimously decided she should stay (So why bring up the issue in the first place?).

Conveniently, it's just in time for one of the mothers to give birth. It's a water birth in a kiddy pool, and after the event, Zoe falls into the pool, presumably right into the afterbirth. Thankfully, the group was nice enough to remove the results of a reflexive release of the bowels (Following the Scout Motto, the group is prepared with a fish net for that).

It's not the first poop joke The Back-up Plan pulls out of its limited, ineffectual joke arsenal, but it is the last. Unfortunately, there's still more useless drama in Zoe and Stan's ill-conceived relationship with which to deal. It's excruciating stuff.

Copyright 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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