Moviegoers should look for plan B

The Back-Up Plan
Director: Alan Poul
Screenwriter: Alan Poul
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin, Michaela Watkins, Noureen DeWulf, Melissa McCarthy
Release Date: 2010-04-28
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Film

So, The Back-Up Plan is a romantic comedy about a woman who has given up on love, gets basted, and pops out not one but two bundles of joy. Good. Now that you’re up to speed, you’ll understand just how much the original title of the movie says about its filmmakers’ general degree of ignorance. It was called — I kid you not — Plan B. Like the emergency contraceptive. Oh, yes. And Julia Roberts allegedly passed on the project because “she couldn’t agree on a director.” Sure.

Like Roberts — and like her Plan character, Zoe — Jennifer Lopez gave birth to twins in the ’00s. Unlike Roberts, though, Jenny from the Block doesn’t show her 40-plus years. That, or The Back-Up Plan’s cinematographer, Xavier Pérez Grobet, was very kind to her. Either way, Ms. Lopez’s youthful visage is a problem from the start. “This isn’t how I imagined it,” Zoe discloses in voiceover during the insemination. She thought she’d get storked the old-fashioned way, and because Kate Angelo’s script never reveals her age, it appears she may have thrown in the towel a bit prematurely.

Zoe comes around to that way of thinking herself after a run-in with a cutie pie named Stan (O’Loughlin). With a skip in her barelegged step and a smirk that says, “I’ve got a secret … in my womb,” she leaves the doctor’s office to return to her cutesy little life as a New York pet-store owner. Then that ruggedly handsome creep Stan has the nerve to try and steal her cab. How totally unacceptable his attempted cab-theft and subsequent stalking would be if he didn’t wear such tight T-shirts and make cheese for a living. He must be the one!

Never in a million years did I dream I would be writing this, but the filmmakers really should have considered casting Matthew McConaughey. I’m serious: He has proven chemistry with J. Lo; he would have no objections to riding topless on a tractor, as Stan is wont to do on his goat farm on the weekends; and he has just enough crazy in his eyes to make an audience believe that yes, you betcha, he’ll absolutely agree to move in with Zoe and raise her frozen-sperminator babies after seeing her just a few times.

The whole romantic premise of The Back-Up Plan succeeds or fails with the plausibility of Zoe and Stan’s love connection. Good chemistry, without a doubt, would have overcome the film’s logical and motivational holes. O’Loughlin and Lopez go through all the corny mating rituals, but they’re just so unconvincing as lovers — in part because director Alan Poul never makes them irresistible to us. They never flirt with the camera; they never kiss each other so much as they charge mouth-first into each other’s faces, arms and hands harmlessly, limply at their sides.

If they cannot charm us, Poul and Angelo seem content to gross us out with parenting. Zoe’s New Agey motherhood support group proffers “shock” in the form of a still-nursing 3-year-old, and later, a rambunctious, over-the-top water birth. Also, Zoe’s disabled dog-on-wheels eats her pregnancy-test strip, and Stan faints at the sight of her doctor’s bloodied gloves during a check-up. Was she trying to have babies or date one? Trust me, you don’t want to see this poopy diaper.

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