When we were dragged (yes, dragged) to The Back-up Plan, our expectations were lower than Kate Gosselin’s self-esteem after being booted off Dancing with the Has-Beens. After all, TBuP (what else would we call a movie starring the queen of shortened names, JLo?) is just another in a long line of formulaic romantic comedies.
The film features the usual loveable screw-up gal, this time named Zoe (Jennifer Lopez), introduced through a cutesy animated opening credit sequence. She owns a pet shop (the job has to be adorable) and her best friend is a refreshingly sarcastic bitch (the wonderful Michaela Watkins). Even her dog is out of the cookie-cutter rom-com guidebook. He’s in one of those funny little doggie wheelchairs, for plenty of sympathy laughs and gee-isn’t-that-quirky comments from the blue-hairs sitting nearby.
After giving up on love, Zoe goes to her back-up plan, which involves a vial of sperm and her legs in the air (funny, that’s one of our back-up plans, too, but usually it involves Mexican police and a foreign exchange student from Norway). Then, in a cruel twist of fate (after becoming pregnant) she meets the love of her life.
But as much as we love endless jokes about morning sickness and cervix invasions by the gyno, we immediately stopped paying attention to anything once JLo’s romantic foil, Stan, enters the picture.
The often-shirtless, always-hot Alex O’Loughlin had us mesmerized like a queer in the headlights. Thankfully, he spends much of the film shirtless (we ignored the fact that he was on a tractor for part of that time) and we spent much of the film imagining ourselves curled up in his arms, crying about the travails of pregnancy (we’re into role-playing).
Yet somewhere along the way, we found ourselves actually enjoying the entire movie, not just the hairy-chested man candy. The film features some genuine LOL moments that have the audience literally screaming with uncomfortable delight. JLo vomits no fewer than three times and there’s more than one film’s fair share of poop, too. (Hmmm, we’ve never written that about Shakespeare.)
By the time the end credits rolled, we were surprisingly hooked on the effortless likeability of Lopez. We had written her off as an actress (she’s always been more of a perfume designer in our minds), but we were wrong. She’s got a presence about her that’s undeniably marketable and believe it or not, she brings something special to this movie.
Would it have been as successful with Jennifer Aniston or Katherine Heigl or Barbra Streisand? Probably not. And it’s worth the price of admission just to see Happy Days’ Tom Bosley and Alice’s Linda Lavin alive and kicking.
So if you need a rom-com fix to feed your addiction (or withdrawal), this is one of the most entertaining ones we’ve seen in quite a while. And the ending leaves it wide open for The Back-up Plan 2: Daddy Takes A Male Lover.
Oh come on, we can dream can’t we?
Opens today in theaters everywhere