Review: The Back-Up Plan Fails

Ladies, if you haven't found "the one" and can't shush your biological clock, relax -- there's a back-up plan. Like a schnauzer to a Snausage the surefire way to lure Mr. Right from wherever he's been hiding is to settle for a bun in the oven without a baker man. At least, this is the plan according to the latest rom-com fairytale starring J-Lo (aka Jennifer Lopez).

Zoe (J-Lo) has done her darndest to create her own happiness. She traded her corporate job for a pet store gig to attain work-life balance. She outfits her adorable pink-wheelchair-pulling bulldog, Nutsy, in snappy tweed hats. Yet Zoe longs for a baby but hasn't met the right man, and her pal Clive (Community's Eric Christian Olsen) refuses her be-my-baby-daddy plea. So she does what women who don't, as her Single Mothers and Proud support group says, "have a penis partner" do: She has Dr. Harris (Robert Klein) shoot sperm donor number whatever into her womb. Seconds later, rapturous despite a downpour, Zoe slides into a cab -- and presto! -- a stranger, Stan (Whiteout's Alex O'Loughlin), appears. They bicker about who stole whose taxi and after the cabbie bails, Stan pursues Zoe and, spotting a penny on the pavement, tells her to pick it up because it's good luck. It's one of many lines he cockily woos her with, along with, "I'd be your best kiss" or "I know how to milk a goat -- does that do anything for you?" (yes, it makes me think you associate sex with farm animals). And what guy wouldn't go gaga for a gal who says things like "stupid head," snorts chili like a sow, and around the third date reveals she's preggers by an anonymous sperm donor? It's so unbelievable it's believable ... right?

In Stan's moony eyes, Zoe is the cutest, sexiest creature on the planet (except when she has chicken in her hair). Obviously, they were meant to be. After about four dates he's ready to affectionately endure pregnancy symptoms (vomiting, sloppy eating) that seem to manifest mere days after her insemination. As the movie itself admits (which doesn't excuse anything), it's love fast-forward and backward. It's also romance with all the sugary highs and little satisfying substance. Zoe and Stan have troubles, but they're kooky rom-com mishaps and endearing difficulties that are easily resolved. The reality of sudden parenthood is simply fodder for the-horrors-of-parenting-and-childbirth humor, which ranges from turd surprises to the gleeful "guess what childbirth does to your bladder" warnings of Zoe's friend Mona (SNL alum Michaela Watkins). Along with Maribeth Monroe's hilariously horrifying birthing wail, Watkins offers rare comic relief; otherwise the movie resorts to misinterpretations of "bought the farm" and unsettling overexposure that includes pubic hair reflections and a glimpse of Lopez's bare booty (the moment fans have been waiting for?), all the while exploiting the lovability of Nutsy, Tom Bosley of Happy Days, and Linda Lavin of Alice, who plays Zoe's Nana, and who Zoe assures that Stan is "special, real, funny and different."

Alas, The Back-Up Plan is none of those things. It's everything you expect from a bad rom-com: a warped sense of relationship reality, a contrived tale about how life doesn't go according to plan, and worse. And it's all served up with a cloying cuteness that's enough to cause an audience to do exactly as Zoe does at the film's finale: throw up.

Grade: D