In comedies, Jennifer Lopez exudes a mix of sweetness and goofiness that, while occasionally grating, points to a lot of potential if paired with the right project. Unfortunately, we're not sure if The Back-Up Plan, which hits theaters today, is that project.
Ironically, The Back-Up Plan tries desperately to be Apatow-edgy: The first scene features Lopez lying on her gyno’s examining table—legs spread apart, waiting for a dose of artificial insemination to sink in. Later, we're treated to a string of gross-out gags involving pubic hair, vaginal blood and not one but two turds. (Seriously, we couldn't make this stuff up.)
Lopez’s character, Zoe, is a 30-something Manhattan pet-store owner who is tired of waiting for Mr. Right and has decided to start a family on her own, a timely subject matter, we know. She, of course, meets the man of her dreams—a goat cheese maker in town for a farmer’s market—right after leaving the doc’s office. After arguing over a cab, Zoe and Stan (Alex O’Loughlin, of CBS’ Three Rivers) figure out that they’re attracted to each other. Later, when Zoe admits that she is pregnant by a stranger, they have to figure out whether or not to stay together and how to make it work.
The remainder of the movie plays out in usual romantic comedy fashion: they break up, make up, freak out, get exposed to weird friends (in this case, a woman having a chaotic home birth), break up again and have an epic reunion scene. In fact, nary a rom-com cliché is left untouched: there’s the awkward first date involving spilled wine, a garden hose and flames; there’s a cute pet (a handicapped Boston terrier who uses a wheeled cart instead of his hind legs). Zoe has a cynical, wisecracking best friend (Michaela Watkins); Stan meets a wise, funny Black man who teaches him about the challenges and rewards of fatherhood (Anthony Anderson).
Hollywood uses clichés because they tend to work well—we get it. And all of these elements may have gelled better if the central relationship were more interesting. Although you'll definitely get a few giggles out of seeing the lead characters bumble about on-screen, the affable Lopez and the comedically challenged O’Loughlin have little chemistry. We're not looking for a back-up plan, instead we look forward to the day when La Lopez pairs up onscreen with a dude who can actually handle her and her potential.