Movie review: Nothing original about 'The Back-Up Plan'

Al Alexander

If you’re planning on seeing “The Back-up Plan,” might I suggest executing your own back-up plan and seeing something more worthy than this labored “Knocked Up” knock-off?

That’s not a knock on J-Lo, starring in her first mainstream movie since 2005’s “Monster in-Law,” as much as it’s a slam on generic, unimaginative filmmaking in general.

There’s not a moment, character or situation in the entire picture you haven’t seen a dozen times before, as director Alan Poul activates the automatic pilot right from the opening credits.

Don’t blame him, though. You’d throw up your hands, too, if you were charged with the impossible task of trying to breath life into a stillborn script by sitcom writer Kate Angelo (“What About Brian?”) that plays like one of those superfluous clip shows she used to help assemble when she was a producer on “Will & Grace.”

The movie she cribs most, all too obviously, is “Knocked Up,” with J-Lo assuming the Katherine Heigl role as the hottie with the bun in the oven and the pedestrian Alex O’Loughlin taking over for Seth Rogen as the reluctant baby daddy freaked out by vaginas and responsibility.

Like Heigl and Rogen, J-Lo and O’Loughlin fall deeper in love with each passing trimester until encountering a contrived blip that tears them apart just long enough until the water and resentment break.

There’s not one surprise or memorable moment in it. There’s also zero sparks between J-Lo and her hunky but vapid costar, who largely fades into the slick New York City backdrops. That’s not a good thing when you’re playing an alleged “perfect man.”

Like his character, a sort-of-kind-of dairy farmer, O’Loughlin deals exclusively in cheese. Everything about him and his character feels phony, especially his willingness to accept J-Lo’s Zoe exactly as she is, which is pregnant with someone else’s child.

As only luck – and a hackneyed screenwriter – would have it, the day they meet (fighting over a cab, natch) is also the very day Zoe throws in the towel on romance and makes a date with a turkey baster.

What irony!

If only she had held out a couple more hours, she would have been free and clear to hook up with her perfect “penis partner.”

Instead, she now must navigate a minefield of contrivances that threaten to tear her and Stan asunder. The problem is that these situations are neither funny, nor compelling.

That’s largely because J-Lo, as her long, dubious track record proves, is terrible at comedy. She possesses neither the skills, nor the nuance required to make scenes of her barfing into trash barrels and scoffing down large quantities of food elicit even the slightest chuckle.

If anything, you’re embarrassed for her. Ditto for the dozen or so mediocre actresses playing her vast support group, from Michaela Watkins as her nay-saying sister, kvetching about how pregnancy turned her boobs into the shape of tube socks, to a well-preserved Linda Lavin as Zoe’s sexy granny (dating Tom Bosley, no less), to Melissa McCarthy as the leader of a club for single (earth) mothers.

Only Zoe’s mutt, an adorable paraplegic pup hooked to a cart to help him get around, emerges unscathed. And in many ways he serves as an apt metaphor for a movie that’s nothing more than a disabled dog.

Patriot Ledger writer Al Alexander may be reached at

THE BACK-UP PLAN (PG-13 for sexual content including references, some crude material and language.) Cast includes Jennifer Lopez, Alex O’Loughlin, Linda Lavin, Tom Bosley and Melissa McCarthy. Directed by Alan Poul. 1 star out of 4.