April 29, 2010

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The Back-up Plan (PG-13)
Jennifer Lopez gets to play it sexy even when she has a pregnancy bump in The Back-up Plan, a wearying romantic comedy about a woman who is artificially inseminated and then finds the man she wants to have kids with.

Zoe (Lopez) is tired of waiting for Mr. Right, so she settles on Mr. Insemination Syringe. It’s on the way out of the doctor’s office that she meets Stan (Alex O’Loughlin) and falls in crush. He’s handsome and sensitive, she’s cute and zany. They have both eschewed corporate life to follow their dreams — hers a pet store and his cheese farm. Their romance progresses, they give each other the lovey-dovey eyes, and then Zoe pukes, the international movie cue for pregnancy, and informs Stan that she’s in a family way. Does he want to be part of the family?

The movie having got to the setup then spends the next, oh, 40 minutes or so picking fights between them, ostensibly to set up some kind of conflict but frankly it feels more like it’s out of boredom. Gotta do something until the inevitable frantic delivery scene, the movie seems to say, might as well set up some extremely weak roadblocks to love.

I was almost tempted to say that a better movie lies somewhere in the pile of ideas, sub-par jokes and cutesiness that makes up this movie, but I don’t think that’s really the case. The setup is too silly and the characters behave too much like characters in romantic comedies. At a certain point Zoe and Stan create kind of a “we’re just having fun, you can leave at any time” truce and you can almost see something in that — something about how modern ideas about relationships can clash with actual emotional needs. But the movie never really does anything with that any more than it does with what really motivates Zoe to have a family to begin with. Though, I’ll grant you, while more interesting I’m sure had any of these ideas been explored the results would have been neither romantic nor comic.

On the other hand, this movie is neither romantic nor comic. It does what’s expected, with a very predictable, very inartfully followed map of meet-cutes, misunderstandings, pratfalls and romantic speeches. There are times when the movie almost lets you see another kind of character development for Jennifer Lopez, one in which she plays the sexed up but strange kind of character that Cameron Diaz tried on for a while. But then the mediocrity washes over everything and you can’t really see anything but that gray blech that is generated when a movie is all one-line concept and poster and no story. D+

Rated PG-13 for sexual content including reference, some crude material and language. Directed by Alan Poul and written by Kate Angelo, The Back-up Plan is an hour and 38 minutes long and distributed in wide release by CBS Films..