I want you, the readers, to promise me something. If I ever have kids and start whining about having no free time, getting barely any sleep, etc., please slap me. Slap me as hard as you can. The reason being is because I don’t want to become a hypocrite. I can’t stand when parents complain about having children, making those of us who don’t have any feel ashamed. Parents do have the right to be stressed and vent every now and then. The right they don’t have is to complain incessantly about it, especially considering that, ninety-five percent of the time, it’s planned. Even when it’s not planned, there’s rarely any signs of prevention from it.

This is all The Back-up Plan is. Ninety-eight minutes of parents complaining about their children. It led me to believe that director Alan Poul and screenwriter Kate Angelo wanted to vent their frustrations about parenthood, with the only way of them knowing how to do so is through film. They try to force some jokes in as well, but the lot of them don’t work. It’s lazily written, perfect proof being that the characters don’t even have last names (Anthony Anderson doesn’t even get the privilege of having a name, as he goes by playground dad).

The plot revolves around Zoe (Jennifer Lopez), a lonely pet store owner who hasn’t found Mr. Right yet. Her parents died when she was young, and the only family she has is her Nana (Linda Lavin), who has been engaged for twenty two years but never pulls the trigger (a running gag that goes nowhere). Knowing that Nana’s time here is running short, she decides to artificially inseminate herself, in hopes of getting pregnant and not dying alone. The movie’s already rubbing me the wrong way, as the main lead who I’m supposed to care for comes off as a disgruntled teenager who thinks having a baby will make everything right. I don’t have kids, but I do know that most children don’t fully love or appreciate their parents until their out on their own. They may be close to you in the beginning, but as they grow older and more independent, they drift away.

Enough about teenage pregnancy and more about the plot. After being inseminated, Zoe bumps into Stan (Alex O’Loughlin) after he steals her cab. Or, in his rendition, she steals his cab. This joke not only goes on for a few minutes, but it gets brought up again and again later on. Both desert the cab (Zoe’s in a good mood and Stan feels bad) and head their separate ways. At least, Zoe tries to. Stan follows her around and tries to get on her good side. When she keeps telling him she’s not interested, he keeps persisting. Eventually, Zoe caves and they start to fall in love. Problem is, Zoe is pregnant, with twins no less, which dampers their relationship. The rest of the film is them whining and moaning along with their friends, while I roll my eyes.

Zoe and Stan are terrible for each other. Neither of them are likable or relatable enough to root for, nor do Jennifer Lopez or Alex O’Loughlin elicit any chemistry. I found it hard to swallow that Zoe would just give in and date Stan as opposed to macing him and calling the cops. What’s worse is that Stan starts off as a jerk, then quickly transforms into a nice guy. There’s no character development, just character enforcement.

The friends don’t help out either. Zoe’s best friend, Mona (Michaela Watkins), is a single mom who constantly complains about her kids and how they ruined her life. I’m guessing this was supposed to be funny, but I found it aggravatingly annoying. I wanted to shout at the screen “if the kids are ruining your life, you shouldn’t have had them in the first place”. Since there were others in the theater, I contained myself. Stan’s new-found friend played by Anthony Anderson (who, as I mentioned earlier, doesn’t get the courtesy of having a name) is a more toned down version of Mona. He’s clearly had enough of his children. However, he doesn’t consistently whine about them, instead making a few jokes and almost showing love for his children (Alan Poul pulls back on this). Anderson is a very funny actor, and he does extract a few laughs. The problem is his character is one-dimensional and doesn’t get much screen time. Eric Christian Olsen and Noureen DeWulf also play Zoe’s coworkers/friends, but they add absolutely nothing to the story.

The only break we get from Zoe and Stan arguing is when Zoe goes to a single mothers group. Lead by Carol (Melissa McCarthy), the scenes consist of single mothers whining about their problems and making menstruation and pregnancy jokes. Most of them are made by the interminable Lori (Maribeth Monroe), who is also pregnant. This leads to a repulsive scene where she gives birth in a kiddie pool, while all of her single mother friends and Stan attend and help out. There’s even a close-up of the crowning, which made me question how that slipped past the MPAA.

I don’t consider The Back-up Plan a movie. I designate it as ninety-eight minutes of parents whining about their problems. If the characters aren’t whining, they’re cracking lame jokes or are involved in stale sight gags (such as when Stan accidentally pours red wine all over Zoe’s dress). It’s poorly directed by Alan Poul and lazily written by Kate Angelo. It’s not a movie, it’s a long, painful excursion in self-hate.