The Back-Up Plan

Posted on August 24, 2010 at 8:00 am

This movie’s best use could be population control. No one who sees it will want to get pregnant or raise children. It could also be used to show aspiring screenwriters what not to do.

Other than that, I can’t think of any reason not to ship it back to the studio and recycle the film stock. If you were planning to go see this film in theaters, I hope you have a back-up plan.

Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) has decided that not having a man in her life should not mean she does not have a child in her life. So, she goes to a doctor (Robert Klein) to get artificial insemination. And that very day, she meets Stan, a guy who could be The One (bland Alex O’Loughlin).

It could have worked. But instead of giving any thought to the interesting possibilities of the story, it is just another boneheaded replay of the dumbest sitcom pregnancy and parenting cliches. They scrape the bottom of the barrel and then they dig a little deeper. Zoe barfs. She gets super-hungry. She has hormonal swings. She gets depressed about getting fat. She worries that he won’t love her any more. And the costume designer seems to have been heavily influenced by “Flashdance.” Lopez’s bare shoulder appears so often it deserves its own trailer. O’Laughlin’s bare chest is so crucial to his performance it deserves an agent.

Meanwhile the movie wastes the time and talent of two brilliant comic actresses in supporting roles, Jennifer Elise Cox (unforgettable as Jan in the Brady Bunch movies and in one of the funniest scenes ever on “Will and Grace“) and Micheaela Watkins (Hoda Kotb and the blogger on “Saturday Night Live”). The adorable Melissa McCarthy (“Gilmore Girls”) and the very funny Anthony Anderson are stuck in roles with lines that pull them down like quicksand. Only Linda Lavin (television’s “Alice”) manages to maintain some dignity as Zoe’s Nana, engaged for decades (and if you guess her fiance is “Happy Days'” Mr. C., Tom Bosley, you are correctamundo).

There isn’t one fresh or believable or even sympathetic moment in the whole mess. Zoe and Stan are supposed to be endearing. She left her successful corporate job (with plenty of money socked away) for a cuddly little pet store and is so tender-hearted that her own pet is a dog who needs to have his back half supported on wheels. Stan lives on a farm, makes cheese, and is studying to get his college degree. But these are check-lists. They don’t add up to personalities. The movie clearly thinks these people are far more appealing to each other and to us than they really are. If first-time director Alan Poul and screenwriter Kate Angelo want us to care about these characters separately or as a couple, it might make sense to give us some reason to believe that they have the ability to care about anything other than themselves.

For one thing, this is a movie about pregnancy in which no one much likes babies or children. Zoe has a friend who repeatedly claims to hate her four children and shows no sense of responsibility or affection for them. Stan has a friend who describes parenthood as: “Awful, awful, awful, awful, and then something happens. And then awful….” Zoe goes to a single mother’s group with one member who insists on having the entire group in the room as she gives birth in a kiddie pool. Her grimaces and grunts are supposed to be funny. So is a dog chewing up a pregnancy test stick. So is a single mother who insists on breast-feeding a three-year-old. So is the water breaking in the middle of a conga line at a wedding. Not, not, not, not, not. At the exact moment we should be saying “Awwww….” we are thinking about calling Child Protective Services. Or Audience Protective Services.

Related Tags:


Comedy Date movie Romance

15 Replies to “The Back-Up Plan”

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more, Nell. I went to the midnight showing last night at Tysons and just sat there in disbelief at how many ways it goes wrong. As I say in my review, it is this year’s “All About Steve.”
    Also, kudos for giving a shout-out to Jennifer Elise Cox (one of the most criminally underused comic actresses working today) and Melissa McCarthy (who deserves so much better…if you haven’t seen her in the excellent “The Nines,” please please please add it to your Netflix queue asap).

  2. What’s with all the analyzing of this movie? Can’t you just laugh and enjoy the funny things. We saw it last night and we laughed until we hurt. Did anyone ever tell you that laughing releases endorfins in the brain and makes you feel better? Isn’t that what this crazy world needs…..more laughter? Maybe there wouldn’t be so much depression and misery. As for the “shoulder” and the objectionable scenes, you can see worse on daytime tv. Have you watched any soap operas lately?
    As for what you call “making a joke out of parenthood”….is that any worse than using guns and bombs around kids like you refered to in that other movie you talked about. Can’t you just enjoy a movie for it’s stupidity, just because it’s hilarious? And how many kids do you have? Obviously none, or you would understand the jokes they make in this movie. I have seven, so I can really laugh about the faces and sounds and situations of labor and childbirth that are in there. And the playground scene seems real life to me.
    Why don’t you get a real job? Who do you know (or otherwise) that you got a gravy job like this? If you’d go out into the real world you might appreciate a funny movie about real life instead of guns and bombs and all that.

  3. Pat, I am always glad to hear from someone who sees more in a movie than I do, so thanks and welcome. However, just a reminder that the rules of this site prohibit any insults of anyone else or their views. Remember, insults are not argument, and just take away from the substance of your point which is that the movie made you laugh, which is what it intended to do, so that is great to hear. I am sure you taught your seven children to be able to express their disagreements appropriately and respectfully and would like to set them a better example than you did in this comment.
    Just to respond to your points, yes, I am the mother of two children and am very familiar with pregnancy and childbirth and parenthood — and with what seemed to me to be the very mundane and — as you admitted — stupid take on an area rich with opportunities for endorphin-enhancing comedy. I found the characters unlikeable and the situations trite. My objection to the shoulder had nothing to do with its appropriateness — she has a very pretty shoulder and I can see how she would want to show it off. It was that it was distracting and unnecessary. I don’t agree that this was a “funny movie” or that it was “about real life.” But I am glad that you did and that you took the time to express your views, which will be of great help to those who visit this site for advice about what to see. Best wishes to you and your family.

  4. Okay, I was the mean mom who didn’t let her daughter go to “Date Night” and am debating whether to be the hold-out again. We watched the preview and read the review together, and I agree it sounds dreadful. But cliches to us are not cliches to 6th graders, and my daughter thinks it looks hilarious. And that furry movie doesn’t sound great either.
    Here’s a question I always have with movies: does it portray sexuality in the context of generally loving and committed relationships? There were some acceptable messages in Date Night, but that lap dance/strip club stuff put it over the edge of not appropriate.
    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  5. I’m sorry, Rosanna, but as a fellow mean mommy, I really cannot recommend “Back-Up Plan” as anything close to harmless. From the very first shot of the film, as Lopez has her feet in the stirrups while she is inseminated as she muses that if this were the real thing she’d have gotten a pedicure, the humor is vile and the characters are selfish. I’d say this one is a lot worse than “Date Night” in every category.
    There’s a good one coming up for 6th graders that is smart and doesn’t talk down to them, called “Flipped.” So ask her to be patient.

  6. Thanks. Over my head in proxies at the moment so movie reviews are a welcome break!

  7. Wow, do I wish I would have taken the time to read this BEFORE I went to see this with my almost 13 year old….I heard from another parent with a daughter my child’s age how funny it was and how the content wasn’t too bad – definitely something kids their age already have had in health class, etc…
    While I think the actual acting was not nearly as bad as some I have seen recently – I really was disappointed in the content, and what they could have made the movie into and did not. The potential for a great movie was there, and they missed it.
    I didn’t think it was a terrible movie, I just think they missed the mark between humor and sarcastic reality that they were shooting for. I chose to stay and finish the movie and talk to her about what we watched later in a discussion about commitment, choices and consequences rather than leave and make it seem forbidden (and therefore more appealing) by leaving.
    Thanks for your reviews – they are really helpful!

  8. Thanks, Kim! I think you handled it just right. But I was horrified at what was permitted in a PG-13 (an on-screen orgasm?) and by the self-centeredness of the characters. Your comment will be a big help to those who are trying to figure out whether this movie is right for them and their families.

  9. I wish I’d read this review before I went to see this movie. It was painful. Quite possibly the worst movie I ever saw, not to mention so crude it would make a hooker blush and horribly disrespectful to pregnant women and mothers. I think I’ll definitely look up this site to research movies in the future.

  10. Thank you, Sarah! I am deeply sorry you had to suffer through this awful film but very glad it led you here. Welcome, and I hope you will return often and let me know what you think about the movies you see.

  11. This movie was uber-painful. I like romantic comedies. J Lo started off well. I am straight, and watched this movie with a gay friend. He observed that there was such a lack of chemistry between J Lo and the male lead that he believes the male lead might very well be gay. His lines were delivered with a complete lack of emotion. Ultimately, we decided this was much like a Woody Allen movie, but with the ever-present awkwardness not being deliberate. We agreed that if John Waters had directed it, the degree of camp already present could have been elevated into true art. Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch.

  12. Greg, I LOVE the idea of a John Waters recut! This movie was excruciating and I am so sorry you suffered through it. But very glad you shared your thoughts. Many thanks.

Comments are closed.

THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik