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The Back-Up Plan (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

The Back-Up Plan

The Back-Up Plan


Starring Jennifer Lopez, Alex O’Loughlin, Michaela Watkins, Eric Christian Olsen, Noureen DeWulf, Linda Lavin, Melissa McCarthy, Anthony Anderson, Tom Bosley, Maribeth Monroe, Danneel Harris, Robert Klein, Jennifer Elise Cox and Cesar Millan.

Screenplay by Kate Angelo.

Directed by Alan Poul.

Distributed by CBS Films.  105 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

It seems a long time ago – well over a decade, to be exact – since Jennifer Lopez seemed like an exciting actress.  That was back in the Selena/Out of Sight days when the future looked bright for this strong new talent with the conspicuous booty.

That was before she decided to become a pop star and put her movie career in second place.  Oh, she was working in films often enough in that time – mostly in crap like The Wedding Planner, Monster-in-Law, Jersey Girl, Enough, Maid in Manhattan and the historically bad Gigli.

Every once in a while she’d do something more adventurous like El Cantante and An Unfinished Life, but those films were not as good as she imagined and vanished without causing a ripple popularly or critically.

Lopez has returned to her comfortable romantic comedy roots in her comeback vehicle The Back-up Plan.  However, the question is simply this – is it a case of comfort or laziness?  As usual, J.Lo is better than her material – but that material is so consistently mediocre that she really has no one to blame but herself for the dire straits of her career.

Now that her music career is essentially in the toilet (her long time record label Epic dropped her last year rather than release her most recent album) she is trying to dig in the rubble of her film career.  She is still a likable screen presence – as shown by a saucy recent appearance on the TV sitcom How I Met Your Mother and even in this new film.  However, the TV guest spot also pointed out what Lopez has been missing for years – sharp, inventive writing.

The Back-up Plan is just a return to the muck for her.

Ironically, this movie is much more sitcom-y than the sitcom she previewed it with.  Lopez plays Zoe, a well-off former exec who is tired of waiting for the right guy and decides to have a baby on her own.

Of course, right when she gets inseminated, she meets Mr. Right – though he comes attached to the old-man-name Stan (Alex O’Laughlin).  I mean it, she encounters him literally right away – they meet cute(-ish) when they both grab the same cab outside the fertility clinic.  They both have adorable jobs that take up none of their time – she owns a pet shop and he makes goat cheese.  (Really!  I couldn’t make that up.)

How is she supposed to tell this great new guy in her life that she is pregnant – with twins???!!!

Turns out this doesn’t scare him off.  They fall in love, decide to raise the kids together and periodically argue and break up for no other apparent reason than the fact that the formula calls for them to do so.

To give you an idea of the level of humor on display here, if you think that a dog that can’t use his hind paws and must ride on a little cart to get around is funny, then this is the film for you.  Not only does the little doggy ride on this wheeled contraption, at different points he is knocked over and can’t get up, eats a used plastic pregnancy test and vomits right on cam.  Now that’s comedy.

Actually, the mutt is lucky – he only has to vomit on camera once.  Lopez has to do it at least three times – but that is supposed to be adorable, because she is pregnant.  Get it?  Right?  Hello, is anybody out there?  Is this thing on???

There is actually also an uncomfortable scene where a fellow dad assumes that Stan is a pedophile because he is in a playground alone with his hands in his pockets.  That same dad later convinces Stan that being a father is a great adventure – all while his own son has something’s (or someone’s) poop in his hand.

The Back-up Plan also features undoubtedly the ugliest and scariest birth scene ever committed to film.  Don’t worry, it’s not J.Lo’s – her character gives birth with full make-up, soft lighting and a designer hospital gown.

There is something very old-fashioned about the whole project – and not just the 60s deco cartoon that introduces the film.  By the way, is it me, or were they really going out of their way to Anglicize the proudly Latin J.Lo in the animated opening sequence?  It’s almost like they were afraid the credits might get stopped in Arizona and asked to show their immigration papers.

It is just another odd misstep by a film that makes way more than its share of bad choices.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 All rights reserved. Posted: April 30, 2010.


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