The Back-up Plan
dir Alan Poul
scr Kate Angelo
prd Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch
with Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin, Michaela Watkins, Eric Christian Olsen, Noureen DeWulf, Anthony Anderson, Robert Klein, Linda Lavin, Tom Bosley, Melissa McCarthy, Maribeth Monroe, Danneel Harris
release US 23.Apr.10, UK 7.May.10
10/US CBS 1h46
The Back-up Plan
Hot flashes: Lopez and O'Loughlin

olsen anderson lavin
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Back-up Plan As far as romantic comedies go, this is just about watchable. Even though it's both silly and sappy, it has a vaguely realistic tone that lets us identify with the characters. Even if the romance falls flat, the romance is sweet.

Zoe (Lopez) is a busy but single New Yorker desperate to have a child, so she heads to the sperm bank. After her doctor (Klein) helps her conceive, even a clash with an annoying stranger, Stan (O'Loughlin), can't ruin her day. Of course, she runs into him again, and this time notices that he's both annoying and drop-dead gorgeous. So how will he react when he finds out that Zoe is pregnant?

Director Poul adds a slight edge to what's essentially a sunny rom-com. The unambitious script makes Zoe a pet store owner (cute puppy alert!) who attends a support group of single earth-mothers (nutty side character alert!), and everyone else is a standard comedy type, from snappy employees (Olsen and DeWulf) to wacky grandparents (Lavin and Bosley). But there's a nicely tentative quality to the dialog, which the cast underplays refreshingly. The slapstick and swoony romanticism are less convincing. As are the contrived conflicts that drive the plot.

The oddest thing about this film is its ordinariness. Both damaged by past relationships and personal grief, Zoe and Stan are normal people who find common ground and sparks of attraction in the usual ways. Of course, we know the genre rules will kick in. And it doesn't help that the film has that simplistic-artificial sheen in which people over-react to everything, have sex with their clothes on and get misty-eyed on cue. Although at least they actually talk to each other.

Since this is such a standard romantic comedy, the big worry is that screenwriter Angelo will wimp out with a lame late-act plot twist. Fortunately, she doesn't draw out the angst too long, and the surprises aren't too terribly forced. But for a film about the fears of commitment and impending parenthood, this is never more than charming and sentimental. It's a cute, undemanding romance but, besides watching the adorable Lopez and O'Loughlin, there's not much to it.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 22.Apr.10

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