April 29, 2010

Hope Plan A Was Better

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The tagline of Jennifer Lopez’s most recent film, The Back-Up Plan, is “Fall in Love*. Get married. Have a Baby. *Not necessarily in that order.” The film as a whole is just as illogical as Zoe’s (Jennifer Lopez) plan to have a baby, fall in love and get married. In the film, Zoe is a woman desperate to follow the traditional gender role for women, but decides to stop waiting for step one (find a man) and become artificially inseminated. She fatefully meets the breathtakingly handsome Stan (Alex O’Loughlin) in a cab (in clichéd pouring rain nonetheless) right after her insemination. Too happy to fight over a cab, Zoe gives it up to wait for another in the pouring rain. And so begins the series of illogical occurrences — because who would ever give up a New York City cab in the rain to a complete stranger?Fate continues to intervene in Zoe’s life as she runs into Stan at a Farmers’ Market where he sells quite possibly the least-sexy cheese on the planet, goat. Zoe resists Stan’s charm and shares no personal information about herself to him. Fortunately, best friend Mona (Michaela Watkins) is on hand to provide everything, envying Zoe’s single and childless (for now) life. Stan who is inexplicably falling for Zoe calls the pet store where Zoe works (break-out star of the film can be seen here, Nutsy, Zoe’s handicapped dog). Zoe has two eager, interested and entertaining co-workers who are incredibly underutilized in the film — Clive (Eric Christian Olsen) and Daphne (Noureen DeWulf). Initially Clive and Daphne seem like they would be major players in the film, but their roles overlap with Mona’s as the comic-relief providing friend, and all three aren’t seen enough to provide enough snark to make the film far more bearable. Zoe and Stan go on the kind of date only seen in unrealistic romantic comedies — a candlelit private park with a beautifully set table and then, voila, a pizza dinner! How sweet. The two get into a bizarre water fight in the middle of the park while they simultaneously try to put out a fire. Somehow, despite the fact that Stan ruined Zoe’s brand-new dress, they end up on a second date. Their romance continues, unfortunately without one of those standard rom-com montages. Surprisingly the lack of an adorable montage makes you wonder why Stan would want to be with Zoe and raise her children with her? Why he would give up his dreams of making goat cheese and going to night school (as he never finished college) to raise some sperm donor’s red-headed babies. Even taking into account Stan’s understanding of Zoe’s pregnancy mood swings you have to wonder why Zoe is worth it? That question is never answered. The film is full of holes in the plot. There are multiple instances where scenes jump from one another with no character resolution. For example, after some argument Stan comes to Zoe’s door to apologize and the camera jumps from Stan at the door to a post-coital snuggle. Some conversation between the characters might explain why Stan is so interested in raising Zoe’s kids. The Back-Up Plan is just as predictable as any other romantic comedy, but the characters lack a lot of substance, and the chemistry between Zoe and Stan seems rushed and awkward. The film is void of substantial and well-placed character development.  One scene that did deliver was when Stan accompanied Zoe on an appointment with her incredibly frank OB/GYN. It is the only scene that shows some realistic apprehension in Stan and entertains audiences at the same time. Furthermore it is one of the more well delivered pregnancy jokes, in a film full of pregnancy clichés such as over-eating, sex-less evenings and natural births. Most of those scenes serve as gross-out slapstick scenes that Lopez struggles to deliver, even with the aid of Melissa McCarthy (of Gilmore Girls) who leads the Single Mothers and Proud group that Lopez joins after her insemination. Overall the film fails to deliver a believable story line, chemistry between the main characters and the amount and level of comedy that would be expected from the cast of supporting characters. Had these supporting characters been properly utilized, the films hilarity could have overcompensated for the storyline.

1.5 Towers

Original Author: Cara Sprunk