WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) is pushing 40, desperate for children – and, of course, single. As a former high-flier who’s now running a successful pet-shop, money is not a problem, so she’s opted for a sperm donor to help make her dreams come true.
The procedure goes well. She’s feeling better than ever. Head held high, she steps out into the pouring rain, hails a cab, and jumps inside – to find a strikingly gorgeous young stranger, Stan (Alex O’Loughlin), has just jumped in the other door.
After a Hollywood row, they disappear in opposite directions, but as luck would have it, they bump into each other at a local street market, where he is selling cheese.
Zoe’s friend can detect and attraction and ensures that they end up on a date, which, of course, works out – but for one slight complication: Zoe has just found out that she’s pregnant.
The relationship blossoms to the extent that she has to come clean – after all, some guys might not like the idea of getting hitched to a woman who’s already carrying someone else’s baby, right?
Well, Stan rises to the challenge and is committed to playing Dad – until he sees one of her friends giving birth; then he runs for the hills.
Then they get back together again. Then she gets cold feet. Then she wants him back. Etc etc etc.
Then the film-makers say “Oh – we’re approaching a hundred minutes – we’d better settle on an ending” and then we get a corny standard-Hollywood rom-com ending.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
From the initial concept to its final execution, there is almost nothing worthwhile about The Back-Up Plan.
Other films – such as Tina Fey’s recent Baby Mama – have tackled similar areas, with more wit, charm, warmth and coherence. Without question, Fey is a better comic actress, but this film’s failure is down to more than just JLo’s deficiencies as a convincing comic lead.
And the way the two lead characters meet is unbearably contrived – jumping into the same cab, in the same way that George Clooney met Michelle Pfeiffer in One Fine Day – but they were two actors with charisma.
Nothing that any characters do or say is at all believable – from their jobs – to their first date in a private Manhattan park, adorned with candles) or a later date in his cheese shed – to the burly father Stan meets in the children’s playground – to the single-mothers’ self-help group she joins – to the disabled dog she wrestles over her pregnancy test with – to the fact that the couple actually get on in the first place.
Narratively, this is contrived roller-coaster, with incredible doglegs in the plot, one minute the relationship is perfect, the next one of them sabotages it, then they get back together and then the other one sabotages it. There is a sense in which people who love each other often do sabotage relationships, frequently for no good reason, perhaps through fear or insecurity – but here, it just feels like film-makers ticking a few boxes to try to follow a formula.
Unknown Alex O’Loughlin – picked either because he was cheap or because he wouldn’t overshadow JLo’s name on the marquee – does the best he can with the poor material, but there’s little here to suggest that he’ll soon be rising up the Hollywood leading man wanted list.
For men, you’ll find out things about pregnancy and childbirth you never wanted to know – but those few truths that you will find in this film are not the kind of things that will draw an audience.
It’s about a woman who’s nearing the end of her fertile years, but in real life, any women with that much life experience will scoff at almost anything that happens here.
The target audience is very small – women who love any romantic comedy (there are some laughs, but largely obvious or cheap ones) – and women who believe Jennifer Lopez can do no wrong.