Alan Poul's The Back-Up Plan
Here's the link to the published version of the review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
The Back-Up Plan (2010)
Alan Poul's "The Back-Up Plan" is another film in a long line of films that are formulaic to the bone, containing little to no originality, all while following around characters that we could care less about. We've already had a fair share of films this year following this same formula, such as "The Bounty Hunter" and "She's Out of My League," so where was the need for yet another?
This time around, the main character is Zoe (Jennifer Lopez), a woman who has never been able to find the right man. Thinking that her time for having children may almost be up, she decides to get artificially inseminated in order to start a family. Not long after the procedure, she meets Stan (Alex O'Loughlin), who happens to get into the same cab as her. He takes a quick liking to her and begins to follow her around until she finally brushes him off.
While at a farmer's market with her friend Mona (Michaela Watkins), she happens to run into him again because he works there selling cheese that he has made. This leads to their first date where she takes a liking to him. Pretty soon, they have a full-blown relationship together. However, she has not yet told him that she is pregnant, and must find a way to break the news to him, but she is understandably hesitant because she is unsure how he will react.
Let's break the formula down and apply it to this film. Step one has a couple coincidentally meeting. In this case, they don't know each other and they just happened to get into the same cab that they both thought they hailed first. Step two has them falling in love hesitatingly. Here, the hesitation is more on her side due to having been artificially inseminated, but she still manages to fall in love with him.
Everything seems to be going so well for the couple until step three occurs, which has some event, usually a really silly one, split the couple up due to becoming mad at each other. This event tends to be something that is a complete misunderstanding, such as a poor choice of words as it is in this film and "League."
Here, Stan makes an innocent remark about not really being the father, obviously meaning he was not responsible for getting Zoe pregnant. Zoe, of course, takes this the wrong way, thinking he means that the children are not his at all, gets mad, putting the couple in the position of hating each other, and once again, leaving the audience to ponder the oh-so-familiar question of whether or not they will be able to overcome their argument and get back together.
When you're able to break a film like this down into such familiar steps, it becomes no fun to watch. For some reason, writers have not felt the need to change this repetitive formula in the least for several years, leaving most romantic-comedies to be far too predictable nowadays. As I've mentioned before, this formula could easily be shaken up so that something new and unpredictable could happen, that way the audience wouldn't know what will happen every step of the way.
Another trend that seems to be happening with romantic-comedies is the complete lack of romance and comedy. This film tries hard to be funny in certain sections, but is never even able to garner a small chuckle. The romance never truly works because there is not that much chemistry between Lopez and O'Loughlin.
"The Back-Up Plan" would probably have been better suited for a movie of the week, especially with its soap opera-ish storyline. It ends up just stretching on needlessly as we wait for the same old conclusion we've seen many, many times before. This formula is truly an instance where you can say that if you've seen one, you've seen them all. 2/4 stars.
Sigh... another Six Feet Under/Rome/Big Love director who absolutely excells in his TV work but can only get shitty feature film gigs like this one. Such a shame, and a waste of talented. Thank god for directors like Rodrigo Garcia who can direct both top-notch episodes of Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Carnivale, and other TV shows AND ALSO interesting, riveting, high-quality indie films such as Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, or Nine Lives.
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