The Back-Up Plan review

Don’t you love titles that have double meanings? I sure do. This one in particular almost feels as if the insult is too easy. Title jokes usually feel like cheap shots and I would love to take a higher road in this situation but, y’see, I just can’t. The film is labelled as a romantic comedy but it is neither romantic or comedic. The trailer promised us leads that are witty, charming, and that’d we’d fall in love with them as they do in the movie. Doesn’t happen. Instead the audience is subjected to annoying television personalities that spit out heinous, eye-roll inducing exchanges. Finally, for Canadian audiences, prior to the release of The Back-Up Plan, behind-the-scene previews played in theatres showing how much fun the cast and crew were having while making The Back-Up Plan. Watching the finished product, it’s as if the cast and crew should’ve been more focused on including the audience in on that fun-loving attitude present on the set. Everything looks and feels like a lame TV pilot that was greenlit and then was thrown out of the Sunday night line-up because producers and anyone else with a brain discovered how badly this turd stinks. The acting is phoned in, the script is sloppy and lame, the direction is M.I.A and The Back-Up Plan deserves everything it’s going to receive from me. The Back-Up Plan? Sounds like something Jennifer Lopez and the rest of the cast and crew should be thinking of right about now. Yeah, a double meaning joke.

Zoe, played by Jennifer Lopez, wants to be a mother so badly. She can’t keep a relationship, she pushes people away instead of letting people into her life, but she really, really wants a baby. She wants a baby so badly that she decides to be artificially inseminated. However, right as she gets potentially pregnant, wouldn’t you know it, she runs into a regular joe named Stan, played by Alex O’Loughlin, who seems like a real arrogant jerk. As Zoe lives on with her life and eagerly awaits results, Stan seems to be everywhere she goes; the farmer’s market, the subway, the pet shop she manages. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Stan appeared in the stall next to hers. While getting to know each other during these random exchanges, they begin to see strong points in each other and they start to enjoy time with one another. She talks about her pets, he talks about his fascination with cheese. Just when things get serious, Zoe finds out that her dream has come true and that she is pregnant. She’s ecstatic but, oh no, the guy! Her new man! How will Stan react to her surprise pregnancy? And if he does react fairly well and wants to stick around, just how will the budding couple cope with these new lifestyles?

When done well, romantic comedies or films with a heavy romance element can be very memorable. However, when done in a seemingly lethargic effort, they tend to fall right on their face. One of the problems The Back-Up Plan has is that it falls into every cliche possible. Sometimes films can recover well and do something new with a cliche we’ve seen many times before; Love Actually instantly jumps to mind. Here, it’s as if screenwriter Kate Angelo and director Alan Poul read a book on how to set up a formulaic romantic comedy, set up their foundation, and then were too afraid to do anything beyond setting the movie up; including the technical elements with this film. The cinematography is ordinary, the editing is mundane, and the direction is lethargic at best. It truly feels like something I would find on TV during the start of a season; when TV shows are finding their groove. This is the second feature film from CBS Studios and I sure hope they find a way to separate their feature films from something they would run on their station, otherwise, I’m not interested. Also, if it’s not the cliches that fall flat, it’s the jokes that Angelo sets up. None of them work. Not one iota. Overall, the script is a boring, muddled mess.

Not only are the technical elements behind the movie done in a very lacklustre fashion, but the acting is incredibly flat and cartoonish as well. Jennifer Lopez has convinced me that when the material is right, she can execute a fine performance. I was impressed with her in The Cell and I remember liking her in the cute but formulaic The Wedding Planner. So, she has made a role in a romantic comedy work at least once for me. Here, she flounders and stutters and makes goggly-eye faces towards the camera or to O’Loughlin as if the more over-the-top she is, the harder her audience is going to laugh. Even the though the material is lame to begin with, Lopez’s cardboard performance doesn’t help the film at all. Alex O’Loughlin stands there most of the time and hopes that his good looks will carry his role and when he isn’t standing, he starts whining in an over-the-top manner. Both acting techniques meet with disaster. Lopez and O’Loughlin can’t even convince the audience that they have chemistry. The couple has about as much chemistry as two socially awkward high school students meeting for the first time in Drama class. With the acting flaws aside, there are two decent supporting roles provided by Eric Christian Olsen and Anthony “Very Much Slimmed Down” Anderson, however, the film decides to give both these characters limited amounts of time so the audience never gets the chance to fully invest themselves in these characters. I was actually surprised by Anderson’s pulled-back performance and would’ve liked to see more of him but, unfortunately, the film wants to spend the majority of the time with Ms. Googly-Eyes and some male model.

The majority of a male audience hates romantic comedies and after viewing The Back-Up Plan, I can see why there’s a large dislike. Once in a while, there’s a diamond in the rough that spices the genre up. Most of the time though, we get films like these that are boring, unfunny disasters. Films like these that showcase shallow, stale characters in a banal story muddled with unfunny slapstick humor and monotonous exchanges. If the girlfriend wants you to see The Back-Up Plan, be prepared to sit through an experience that will make the Ludovico Technique from A Clockwork Orange look like child’s play.

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