Review of The Backup Plan

Alec O'Loughlin and Jennifer Lopez in The Backup Plan

Alec O'Loughlin and Jennifer Lopez in The Backup Plan

There is no reason to see this movie.  Filled as it is with some decent messages about commitment (and fear thereof), it is not worth the price you must pay in order to cull them out.  The price includes predictable dialogue, one-dimensional characters, and one of the most ridiculous child-birth scenes you will ever see on film.  In fact you can almost tell whether a movie is aiming high or low by the way it handles childbirth.  When the characters become slapstick, the movie generally aims low.  Such a movie will do almost anything to get a laugh (or jerk a tear).    When the characters deal at least somewhat realistically with the challenges childbirth presents, depicting the pain, the still-present moments of humor, the anxiety, the joy, and the confusion with earnestness, you are probably dealing with a film that is aiming high — that is to say, at least trying to really say something.  Childbirth slapstick ranks alongside other worn-out movie tactics such as falling in mud puddles, getting pushed into swimming pools, dogs destroying the house, and taking a baseball to the groin.  These are always sure-fire ways to get a laugh out of anyone who expects practically nothing from a movie, and a groan from nearly anyone who wants to see a bit of effort and creativity in return for their hard-earned $10.00.

Jennifer Lopez is sweet, of course, perhaps as sweet as she has been in any film.  She is clearly a talented and beautiful woman, and she deserves far better material.  Her co-star, Alec O’ Loughlin, also makes a serious effort, and it was good to see SNL alum Michaela Watson on the big screen, but there’s just not much here to work with.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are moments of sweetness and charm, which usually have something to do with O’ Loughlin showing Lopez in various ways that he truly can be trusted.  Of course that is one of the film’s main problems.  It relies on that other rom-com cliche: two characters have a serious misunderstanding that keeps them separated for an entire movie, yet all that would really be needed to clear up the misunderstanding would be to do what real-life adults do, which is sit down and talk it out over a cup of coffee.  This of course is another difference between movies that are really shooting for something and those that really are not: serious films find a way to say what they have to say without inventing phony situations and mechanisms in order to do it.  That, of course, is why most movies are mediocre and below.  It is hard to make a good movie that really says something in a fresh way, that is able to reach people without appealing to formulas.

If you are looking to kill some time with some light fare featuring some attractive actors doing their best with sub-par material, and are willing to tolerate some embarrassing and mindless stuff in order to sift through to find the real gems, you would not be disappointed in this movie.  However, even all of its best moments have been handled in other films more adeptly, carefully, and with far greater dramatic effect and nuance.  I enjoyed watching this movie because while I watched it I was sitting next to my wife, and it wasn’t a bad way to spend time with her.  But rent it cheaply somewhere.  And leave nearly all of your expectations at the door.

1 1/2 stars out of 4

Starring Jennifer Lopez, Alex O’Loughlin, Michaela Watkins, Eric Christian Olsen, and Anthony Anderson.  Directed by Alan Poul.  Written by Kate Angelo.  Running time, 104 slightly less than so-so minutes.