The Back-Up Plan
by Richard von Busack
A crafty editor could take The Back-Up Plan and turn it into a horror story: too trusting J-Lo is lured to a rural goat farm and forced to foal the anti-Christ by cultists. (“What have you done to his eyes?” “He has his Father’s eyes! Hail Satan!”) A natural childbirth scene has a tattooed weirdette ululating like Yma Sumac, so there’d be room for the appropriately hellish wails on the soundtrack. Until that’s done, you must watch what’s on screen…or listlessly text messages to friends as the Cosmos slowly wear off.
The Back-Up Plan is padded with dog reaction shots; Nutsy the Crippled Boston Terrier gets more arf than larf. He has the final bark on the soundtrack: “So long, suckers!” is what it sounded like to me. The blinking dog adds to the running time, which also lards on the distinctions of J-Lo:“You’re this incredibly accomplished person…sweet and sassy” and so forth.
Lopez plays Zoe, your typical Manhattan boutique pet-store owner who has given up hope for Mr. Right and has decided to go for a turkey-baster babe, inserted by Robert Klein as a kindly old ob/gyn. Shortly after impregnation she fights over a cab with Stan (Alex O’Loughlin, combining the least interesting elements of Dermot Mulroney and Keanu). This is what passes for a meet-cute. It gets done twice, in case we missed it the first time. She falls in love, but has trouble telling him that she’s got a stranger’s seed in her womb.
Your typical rom-com hunk has been greenwashed here; Stan runs a boutique goat-cheese stall at the Tribeca farmer’s market, and he has a herd of goats up state. He apparently milks them through osmosis, because the farm goes on the backburner (just like the critters at Zoe’s pet shop). Making Stan a cheesemonger gives critics a free one—he even names a cheese after Zoe. But artisan cheesemakers work hard for a living, and this movie isn’t even as earthy as Kraft. Ultra-long snits and slow resolutions follow every fake-ass argument.
Speaking of ass, Lopez memorializes her salient feature: “I miss my old butt.” Sadly, Zoe holds up a snapshot of the way her rump was. Let’s go out on a limb and say that Lopez’s appeal was due to face matching ass, a pertness and insouciance at both ends. Whatever she had, has fled. Lopez tries to recall it like a politician might, through an assumption of earthiness: eating wieners from Gray’s Papaya, or chowing on pizza. The movie is a bizarre mix of the clinical—dog spew, doo-doo, vadge blood on a doctor’s gloves–and the bland, expensive and idealized: Zoe goes into labor with perfect makeup on and an orchid behind her ear.
No relief by Michaela Watkins as Zoe’s best pal, a bitter housewife; her four kids seem to be raising themselves, like the pets and the goats. When a star vehicle goes this wrong and is this out of it, one must agree with what Stan says to Zoe, after one of their 8000 pointless fights: “When you do the autopsy on this, you’ll find there’s no one to blame but yourself.”