Zoe (Lopez) owns a small pet boutique in Manhattan. Desperate to have a child and unwilling to wait any longer for Mr. Right, she tries artificial insemination. The day this process "takes", she meets Stan (Alex O'Loughlin, the good looking star of two television flops "Moonlight" and "Three Rivers", he's good looking, but he can't act). Stan is a merchant at the local farmer's market, peddling the cheese he grows on his farm. Seriously. Stan is attracted to Zoe and wants to get to know her. For some reason, he initially puts her off, so it takes a while, but eventually, she relents and agrees to go on a date. Just as they start to get to know each other, Zoe tells him about the pregnancy. He decides to stick with her, helping her through the process. Hilarity ensues.
Yes, I know. Doesn't sound all that hilarious does it. And that is a large part of the problem with this romantic comedy. Directed by Alan Poul (one of the Executive Producers on HBO's "Six Feet Under" and TV's "Swingtown"), the film tries desperately to make some situations funny. And the desperation shows. When this happens, and it happens too much, the film becomes a tedious exercise.
There were a lot of wrong decisions made in the making of this film. Every time you want to escape into Stan's romantic antics (the first dinner he takes Zoe to is pretty special), the filmmakers almost seem to think they need a laugh and try to make something happen. When it does, it only serves to spoil the moment and worse, it doesn't make you laugh. When Zoe thinks she might have to face life as a single mom, she attends a Single Mom's group. The main joke here seems to be that everyone attending the group seems to be a lesbian couple. The leader very carefully enunciates each of the words in the acronym a few times. This moment seems to go on forever. And Zoe seems to stick with the group to avoid offending anyone. After Stan enters the picture, she gets roped into another meeting and brings Stan along. This scene goes on FOREVER and isn't nearly as funny as everyone involved with the film seems to think it is. Outtakes from this scene play during the credits and both Lopez and O'Loughlin are captured laughing hysterically.
The filmmakers also seem to want to make Lopez into a Caucasian woman. Is there anyone on the planet who doesn't know who Jennifer Lopez is? After spending years looking at her face plastered on the cover of just about every magazine, watching her music videos, seeing her perform on television, watching her movies, I would find it hard pressed to believe anyone wouldn't recognize her on sight. So why try and hide her ethnicity? Her grandmother is played by Linda Lavin (TV's "Alice) who is about as white as bread. And the filmmakers go to great lengths to hide Lopez's back-end. She is always carrying a big canvas bag that almost always conveniently hangs across her backside. Her clothes are designed to slim her down. They are trying to hide who she is. Will this make her a more respected actress? No, doing some good work will make her a more respected actress. And this film doesn't accomplish that.
Lopez seems to be trying to create a semi-real portrait of a young single woman. But just as she begins to reach anything worth noting, the story gets her involved in some stupid slapstick thing. The slapstick would work if the entire film were funnier and faster-paced. Because it isn't, these moments seem strained. In one, Stan catches Zoe dipping big chunks of bread into a pot of bubbling stew, seemingly unable to control herself. Look at the pretty woman making a fool of herself. There are more scenes like this.
Zoe is a frustrated woman, desperate to have a child. The film opens with Zoe on a gynecologist's chair, her legs in the air. The doctor has just inseminated and she desperately wants this to 'take', so she leaves the office, walking with her legs clamped together. Lopez certainly appears game to try and make this a funny movie, but everything plays out like a bad "Saturday Night Live" skit, too long by half.
Alex O'Loughlin? He's good looking… the filmmakers can't wait to get his shirt off… and this is the only reason he continues to get work. He isn't a good actor. Every time his characters have to show an emotion, it seems just too forced, a couple of degrees beyond natural, and this makes every performance seem like a cartoon character.
Michaela Watkins ("Saturday Night Live" and lots of other TV work) plays Zoe's best friend. You'll recognize the "best friend" immediately. If Lopez's Zoe is supposed to be the beautiful, natural woman, desperate for love, Watkins' Mona is the brash-talking, no nonsense, been-there done-that best friend/ comic relief. This character has been done millions of times and usually she is a lot funnier and more interesting.
Linda Lavin plays Zoe's grandma, the woman who raised her. Grandma actually seems like a nice woman, a believable character, but she has so little screen time it is very difficult to get to know her. She lives in a rest home and has a finacee played by Tom Bosley.
Because Zoe is a woman who owns a small shop, she is naturally very busy and the Romantic Comedy Gods dictate that she employ a staff of wacky employees; a sort of comedy Greek chorus, ready and willing to comment and become a part of Zoe's life, but only to generate laughs. That's the promise anyway; the reality is nothing in "Back-Up" creates many laughs.
From the "meet cute" moment, to the predictable fights, to the predictable friends and the predictable 'wacky situations', everything in "The Back-Up Plan" is, well… predictable.
Generally when a film is this predictable, it needs to be very funny in order to work. "The Back-Up Plan" has a few laughs, but it isn't funny enough to override the ongoing sense of dread we have while watching the film. When we realize everything in this film is borrowed from another, we start to fondly remember, longingly remember, back to the funnier, better films that came before Lopez's most recent comeback vehicle.