Back-Up Plan, The
PG-13
Entertainment: +1
Acceptability: -4

Jennifer Lopez, Alex O’Loughlin, Michaela Watkins. Romantic comedy. Written by Kate Angelo. Directed by Alan Poul.

FILM SYNOPSIS: After years of dating, Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) has decided waiting for the right one is taking too long.  Determined to become a mother, she commits to a plan, makes an appointment and decides to go it alone.  That same day, Zoe meets Stan (Alex O’Loughlin) – a man with real possibilities.  Trying to nurture a budding relationship and hide the early signs of pregnancy becomes a comedy of errors for Zoe and creates confusing signals for Stan.  When Zoe nervously reveals the reason for her unpredictable behavior, Stan commits fully and says he’s in.  The real test comes when both realize they really don’t know each other outside of hormonal chaos and birth preparations.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Ah, the indignities of pregnancy: having to urinate on a stick in order to detect the upcoming blessed event; letting a doctor examine your innermost being in order to verify the upcoming blessed event; and throwing up in order to convey to others the upcoming blessed event. Couple those mortifications with constant back and bottom discomfort, the sagging and stretching of body parts best left unstretched, and mood swings frequented by crying and binging, and those considering the miracle of reproduction are again reminded of the tribulations of the birthing process. At one point we and our leading couple view the birth of a baby in a rubber pool. Visualizing this ordeal, which resembles something out of a horror picture, I have to wonder, “Why would any chick go through that?” Being a man, I’ve never had to endure this self-inflicted ordeal known as childbirth. But as a filmgoer, I feel intimate with the experience, thanks to the army of filmmakers who have trafficked in this gruesome depiction that Carol Burnett once described as an experience similar to “taking your bottom lip and stretching it over your head.”

Most of the humor in The Back-Up Plan seems dated and tired because it is drawn from the same depictions of baby-making we’ve seen countless times at the cinema. And, of course, there’s dear old dad, or in this case, dear old stand-in dad, wondering how he’s going to pay for all this. And, oh yes, he’s got a sidekick who sits in the park with his poop-handling toddler, graphically detailing the forthcoming trials of fatherhood to the unsuspecting papa-to-be.

I laughed hard at one scene, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what brought it on. I found the rest of the humor base, crude and emblematic of a culture gone wild. Sex in our society, and especially in movies, is treated casually. Here, a couple has sex outside marriage before they barely know each other, which is no big deal in Tinseltown, a city defined more by hedonism than creativity. And the institution of marriage is treated with all the sacredness of a laxative commercial.

The film promotes single-motherhood by way of insemination, which always sounded to me like an experiment conceived by Dr. Frankenstein. (Sorry, I hope that’s not insensitive to anyone.) And once again, no one in the movie knows how to complete a simple declarative sentence without the assistance of the s-word.

The cast does a credible job and Ms. Lopez is beautiful, even pregnantly plump, but the material is not clever or witty, unless you regard the visual of a toddler holding excrement to be high art.

DVD Alternative: Love with the Proper Stranger. In this poignant comedy/drama, Natalie Wood plays a good girl from an Italian Catholic family. But after a hasty one-night stand (not seen) with a musician (Steve McQueen), she finds herself pregnant. At first she considers abortion (during a time when it was illegal), but something inside says no. Great writing and score and neither lead was ever better. It has humor and depth, two things mostly missing in The Back-Up Plan. It’s also interesting to compare the social mores of today versus forty years ago. Ah, progress.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: CBS Films

Summary
Crude Language: Crude situations and comments throughout.
Obscene Language: Around 15 obscenities throughout, mostly the s-word and mostly from the female lead; several minor expletives.
Profanity: I caught one profane use of God’s name and one of Christ’s; the expression “oh my God” is frequently used.
Violence: None
Sexual Intercourse: A couple of sexual situations, neither graphically depicted.
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: Lots of conversations built around sex.
Drug Abuse: Brief drinking.
Other: Dog vomit; and lots of poop jokes, some visual, with a kid holding it and the dad making jokes about it; Ms. Lopez is seen sitting on a toilet as she administers a childbirth detection devise, which the dog eats and later vomits out.
Running Time: 100 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers

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