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With Jim Sabatini

The Back-up Plan

The Back-up Plan
Jennifer Lopez, Alex O'Loughlin, Eric Christian Olsen, Anthony Anderson, Linda Lavin

Rated: PG-13 sexual content including references, some crude material and language
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: April 23, 2010 Released by: CBS Films

This nonplussed romantic comedy deals with a woman conceiving twins by artificial insemination, only to meet the man of her dreams on the same day.

The Back-up Plan stars Jennifer Lopez (Monster-In-Law, El Cantante) and Aussie actor Alex O'Loughlin (Whiteout) as Zoe and Stan, using planned pregnancy to complicate the meet-cute relationship.

Pet-shop proprietor Zoe (pretty dressed-up for her job) and the single Stan have a tiff over a Manhattan cab after the former just went through the procedure with frozen sperm at the doctor's office. Robert Klein is the peppy ob-gyn who gets laughs from repeatedly uttering "vagina."

Director Alan Poul from his background imparts a sitcom small-screen (which befits the ads from the 'eye in the sky' studio) feel to the proceedings as Zoe and a handsome Stan go through the typical tribulations with petulance on both sides with the latter waiting awhile to find out about her condition. He wants a thriving "sustainable food" business as he toils to make the transition from an upstate cheese farm and had a difficult first marriage if you can imagine the Tiger Woods scandal in reverse. Zoe has man issues thanks to a long-absent father, having lost her mom as a young child.

So, the tension appears to be handled with cute calculation from scribe Kate Angelo, but the filmmaking and her gags are often rhythmless into the realities of courtship and challenges of impending motherhood, even for its Hollywood models probably around a half-a-century ago as the opening credit sketches indicate. It's the kind of vehicle one might expect to try to jumpstart JLo's comedy chops balancing her celebrity with motherhood.

Behind the attractive actress and O'Loughlin (shirtless enough for the desired demographic to make him a chief asset) , Eric Christian Olsen and Noureen DeWulf try to spice things up as Zoe's workplace underlings, while Michaela Watkins is Zoe's acerbic BFF, Mona. It is nice to see Linda Lavin impart some wisdom as Zoe's beloved Nana with a longtime suitor in Arthur, an aging Tom Bosley (kind of a TV reunion from the "Barney Miller", "Alice" and "Happy Days" era). And, Anthony Anderson pops up as a juice-box dad who tries to get Stan up to speed about being a baby-daddy.

There's a bit warmth to the lighting and the sets have that lived-in look without being on-location as the leads strain to make creditable chemistry together. But, a prevalent prodding predictability works too much of the time against naturalistic situations of an ensemble especially when Zoe joins a single-mother group. What may be respectable to its targeted female audience has them and their significant others apparently more than amused during a chaotic rearing scene in a blow-up pool. For some, it may be necessary to impose "the silence of the lambs."

Though a likeable Lopez (The Wedding Planner) still has that twinkle in her eye as she enters middle-age with a pregnancy pillow and a cute Boston terrier with "training wheels", this "Plan" is just too lightweight and sexually nutsy mainly backed up with lines like "I'll give you a taste of my cheese..."

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The Back-up Plan  D      D   C         D+   C-   D+ 

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