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Movie Review: The Back-up Plan – Find Your Own

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Once in awhile an actor or actress has been off the scene long enough that they decide to try for a comeback. Sometimes it works (such as John Travolta with Pulp Fiction) and sometimes the result is so mind-boggling and atrocious you wish the filmmakers would have held their water and drowned their cinematic abortion such as the likes of director Alan Poul’s debut “film,” The Back-up Plan.

Jennifer Lopez just can’t find material suited to her to save her life… or career. However, the females attending the screening I was at howled with laughter for the entire slog of 106 banal minutes of true “torture porn” for sane people. She was great in her own debut film, Selena, and used rather appropriately in her turn as a U.S. Marshal in Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s Out of Sight squaring her off miraculously against George Clooney.

While Lopez had her turn to share participation in guilty pleasures with Anaconda and The Cell, whatever she was thinking by agreeing to star in this mess dreamed up by writer Kate Angelo whose only credits are in television, you can’t help but wish her luck. On second thought, this film is so bad I take that back.

All you need to know about what this film considers plot is that Zoe (Lopez) owns a pet store, Stan (Alex O’Loughlin, who sounds exactly like Matt Dillon) makes cheese from goats’ milk and they meet-cute immediately following Zoe’s artificial insemination. Everything that happens from that moment on is so by the numbers you wonder how anyone could have possibly been given an actual writing credit.

The opening credit sequence is completely animated featuring a generic white female character becoming increasingly baby hungry as she walks along the streets of Manhattan. The animated white female character makes you wonder just how late into production Lopez was cast as Zoe. While out to dinner with her only male coworker Clive (Eric Christian Olsen) she asks him to be her baby daddy, resulting in the scene demanding a spit take. After Zoe is inseminated, she walks out of her doctor’s (Robert Klein) office with her legs cramped together. During her battle of wits over the stolen taxi issue with Stan she uses the term “stupid head.” After sitting through this movie, if you laughed, you might as well call yourself one too.

Zoe feels lonely so she joins a single mothers support group. The screenwriter is apparently under the impression that only lesbian couples are allowed to be "single" mothers. This is the same support group where we get to see a three-year-old breast feeding. How do we know the child in question is three years old? It turns to the camera and tells us.

At Zoe’s pet store they have a reading of a book entitled Cesar’s Way by its author (real life dog whisperer Cesar Millan playing himself) who’s so similar to Raul from UHF’s Raul’s Wild Kingdom you can’t help but wait for him to lick a turtle and toss him onto the ceiling to see if it sticks or toss a poodle out the window to teach it how to fly.

While that never happens, some of the funnier parts come unsurprisingly from Zoe’s friend of 30 years, Mona (Michaela Watkins), as she half-heartedly works out at the gym with Zoe where you can find her either exerting herself lifting two-pound dumbbells, using her arms to do crunches on her sides, or drinking a cup of coffee while using the elliptical.

Among the cinematic “treats” we are privy to are things such as Zoe having a tug of war with her dog over her freshly spritzed pregnancy test which the dog of course swallows. This is all for the supposed hilarity of the dog regurgitating the result back sitting neatly atop the dog’s vomit in the middle of her front room.

When Zoe goes for a weekend visit to Stan’s family goat and cheese farm she not only spies a simmering pot of stew on the stove provoking her to dive in fist first but later, while the two are making out, her body is apparently so engorged with raging hormones that him simply squeezing her arms and kissing her neck sends Zoe into some kind of orgasmic seizure.

Stan comes across as a character so desperately in love with Zoe that he’s almost stalker-ish but truth be told, both of these characters are so desperate that they deserve each other. On a good note I suppose for Stan, at least he can jump into the relationship sans contraceptives.

During the makeout session at the cheese farm Zoe asks Stan if she is his cheese muse. While he halfheartedly agrees, I’d say that she’s more of a cheese muse for the screenwriter, whose idea of a great guffaw is to show vaginal blood on Zoe’s doctor’s gloved hand during an ultrasound. How that helps any film’s plight is beyond me and just because Zoe’s doctor overuses the word vagina, it does not make it funnier when the character repeats it over and over to freak out Stan.

In a very weird subplot, immediately following the ultrasound and the couple find out that Zoe’s having twins, where’s the first place Stan could possibly run to for solace? Why, a playground chock full of children, of course! Of which Stan is quickly mistaken for a child predator all on account of him walking with his hands in his pockets. Not to mention the fact that the accuser (Anthony Anderson, credited only as “Playground Dad…” yeah, that’s right) suddenly becomes his only friend in the remainder of the movie.

So many scenes feature someone either vomiting, urinating, or defecating they might as well have called the film Bodily Functions: The Movie! To add insult to injury it should be mentioned that this supposed entertainment is what I missed two new episodes of both Glee and Lost to endure. The filmmakers’ idea of hilarity is treating women having contractions as an exorcism victim and for some inexplicable reason they have Zoe’s pregnancy somehow make her forget how to walk in high heels, sending her down her apartment’s front steps and lunging into a cab.

Beware viewers, just when the casual observer thought Lopez’s butt couldn’t possibly get any bigger they went ahead and cast her in a pregnant role so now she has two butts, one just as big as the other. And also run for the hills when they finally get to that mentally graphic water birth scene, which makes the delivery in Knocked Up seem like a case of fine art; make sure you brought along your vomit bags. In the film’s single line of actually funny dialogue outside of Mona’s lines, Stan says, “I’ve been up all night watching Orca give birth.” Amen.

An accidental moment of funny happens when the director frames his shot where you can read something behind Stan that appears to say “eatgrass” which becomes more clear when the next shot is pulled back and you realize it really says “wheatgrass.” As the movie careens to a finale we have the pleasure to bear witness to a conga line falling prey to amniotic fluid pratt-falling after Zoe’s water breaks, which also leads us to the geriatric set questioning if it was one of them wetting themselves.

On a final note, dear director, never let your characters use the line “let’s not drag this out” when your movie is already plodding along with no end in sight. Here’s a movie that feels like it takes about nine months to troll through. With the whole production being a CBS Films production one can’t help but pray that this dies a quick theatrical death where it can find a home on daytime television and probably replayed on the Lifetime Network for the rest of eternity for an audience for whom this was tailor made.

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival.
  • http://saharsreviews.wordpress.com Sahar

    Sounds rather disappointing. Too bad :( Thanks for saving me a trip to the movie theater and 10$ ;)