2.5 stars out of 5
“You never know, Mr Right could be right around the corner.”
So says a gal pal to Jennifer Lopez’s character, Zoe, an independent, 30-something single woman who has heard her biological clock ticking and decided to take the solo route to procreation.
Just like in the 2008 Tina Fey comedy Baby Mama, where Fey’s wannabe-mama hires an irresponsible white-trash woman to be her child-bearing surrogate, love happens just when the protagonist makes plans for single motherhood.
In this romantic comedy that seldom surprises and comes with a certain number of somewhat embarrassing scenarios for Lopez, single mothers are the butt of jokes, and the pitfalls of dating while pregnant – a modern-day inverted dating model – are explored with glee.
It’s a ‘be careful what you wish for’ cautionary tale that relies heavily on formula and set pieces, including an utterly grotesque birthing scene, male-bonding moments between two strangers at a park playground, funny old folk who have quirky attitudes towards romance, and a number of disgruntled single moms.
And of course, there is the prospective Mr Right named Stan, played by Alex O’Loughlin, an Australian actor known mostly for his TV work, including a starring role in a remake of Hawaii Five-O.
Stan is handsome and has a chiselled body, but his romantic entanglement with Zoe is hard to fathom. They meet, in yet another implausible Hollywood ‘cute meeting’ moment, as they both go for the same taxi in New York, each accusing the other of stealing the ride.
It’s raining, they argue, he gets interested in her, and they somehow bump into each other time and again. Love blossoms, but the timing is awful. She’s just been inseminated with donor sperm and, within weeks, right after she makes love with Stan for the first time, she informs him she’s pregnant.
“I’m pretty sure it doesn’t happen that fast,” he tells her – ha ha, very funny indeed.
As a romantic comedy, The Back-up Plan, bears cosmetic similarities to films by Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated). But this film directed by TV veteran Alan Poul, isn’t quite as breezy and fun.
Instead, it is a typical specimen of the garden-variety rom-coms produced by the American film industry – meaning that it’s mediocre, relatively harmless and utterly forgettable.
One good thing to come out of this is Lopez’s rather appealing turn as Zoe. Sure, her emotional journey isn’t 100 percent believable, and she gets herself into situations that only serve the needs of the fluffy plot, that is, to deliver cheap laughs at a consistent rate.
But bearing in mind that her film track record since her best movie, 1998’s Out of Sight, has been very spotty, this film, at the very least, endears her to audiences a little bit more.
Lopez apparently has no fear of making herself look more than a little foolish on screen, if it makes for decent comedy. She is seen looking chunky as Zoe enters pregnancy, and she pigs out in a few scenes, once even slathering gravy all over her face as she inconceivably – no pun intended – gorges herself on Stan’s food.
It’s a commendable quality for an oft-glamorous pop icon to have. It’s just too bad this movie about stumbling upon Mr Right isn’t quite the right vehicle for Lopez’s laudable comedic touch.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
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