If you knew nothing about a movie other than that it has two scenes in which fecal matter makes a prominent appearance -- as well as other scenes where dog vomit, human vomit, and human blood are showcased for comedic effect -- who would you assume the movie was aimed at? Teenagers? Frat boys? Well, in the case of The Back-up Plan, the surprising answer is women.
Jennifer Lopez plays Zoe, a thirtysomething Manhattanite who tucked away millions before the dot-com bubble burst, and now runs a pet shop. But what Zoe wants more than anything is a baby. Sadly, she never met Mr. Right, so, as the movie opens, she’s undergoing her first attempt at artificial insemination. On her way home she ducks out of the rain into a waiting cab, just as Stan (Alex O’Loughlin) jumps into the same taxi. Of course, they bicker, but they end on friendly terms, and -- after an unexpected reunion days later at a farmer’s market where Alex peddles his homemade cheeses -- the two begin dating. However, when Zoe discovers she is in fact pregnant, she wonders if her pending child will sabotage her best chance at finding true love.
The artist formally known as J-Lo, seemingly through a sheer Madonna-esque force of will, made herself into a cultural superstar, even if she never quite had the film career to back that up. She’s had a handful of modest hits, but no blockbusters. And The Back-up Plan, coming five years after her last success (Monster-in-Law), smells like a desperate attempt to regain an audience that wasn’t all that large to begin with. Sure, she still has a great smile, and she’s savvy enough to do jokes about her revered ass, but never once can she make Kate Angelo’s insipid script funny or make her character relatable. As Stan, O’Loughlin barely registers. He could be a good actor or he could be a terrible actor, but because Stan is such a nothing character it’s impossible to tell one way or the other from his work here.
Compounding the problem that the two main characters are utter duds is the fact that the supporting characters are, for the most part, thoroughly annoying. Michaela Watkins grates as Zoe’s best friend, who seemingly despises her four children; Eric Christian Olsen continues his string of playing annoying douchebags; and even the talented Anthony Anderson can’t do anything with a monologue about how hard it is to be a parent. Only Linda Lavin, as Zoe’s grandmother, and Robert Klein, as Zoe’s gynecologist, escape unscathed. Lavin effortlessly brings an upbeat energy to her scenes, which painfully underscores how hard the rest of the cast is straining to make this subpar material interesting, and Klein sells his best sequence -- endlessly repeating the word “vagina” to Stan in order to get him over his squeamishness during an ultrasound -- with superb comic timing.
Even if the cast were loaded with comedic talents, however, they could not salvage a script this inept. In addition to a string of uninspired gross-out gags, the movie has Zoe drinking wine after she knows she could be pregnant -- something that makes no sense considering we’ve been told she wants a baby more than anything else in the world. At one point, Anthony Anderson’s character says that being a parent is nothing but a seemingly endless string of horrible moments, and every once in a while something amazing happens. If you remove the amazing parts, that’s an apt description of The Back-up Plan.
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- Released: 2010
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: If you knew nothing about a movie other than that it has two scenes in which fecal matter makes a prominent appearance -- as well as other scenes where dog vomit, human vomit, and human blood are showcased for comedic effect -- who would you assume the mov… (more)