The Back-Up Plan Alan Poul

The Back-Up Plan Alan Poul
No one expects much from romantic comedies. As a genre, it isn't held up to a great deal of scrutiny, with academics praising the subtle genius of Wayne Wang's subversive criticism of an unscrupulous working class in Maid in Manhattan or questioning Donald Petrie's handling of gender politics in Miss Congeniality.

People, for the most part, don't care and expect little more than some playful banter and dry humping between vacuous, camera-friendly leads to reinforce the delusion that there is indeed a special someone out there for us all — annihilation anxiety be damned. But The Back-Up Plan can't even pull off this basic task.

It starts out with equal parts crudity and cornball clichés, with vivid descriptions of post-birth vaginal dysfunction and Jennifer Lopez making goofy faces while Robert Klein shoves a tablespoon of ginger sperm up her at the doctor's office. You see, Zoe (Lopez) wants a baby, but can't find a man, leading to some fun-filled artificial insemination, which is followed up by — surprise, surprise — a run in with the hunky, personality-devoid man of her dreams, Stan (Alex O'Loughlin). And here's the clincher: Zoe is now pregnant with twins, unbeknownst to Stan, who just seems dazed in the face of her rampant horniness, hunger and affinity for randomly vomiting.

From here on out the film meanders without any sense of direction or purpose, detailing a tedious relationship that was founded on quickie stories of uninspired childhood traumas and a water fight. He helps her into dresses that don't fit, they shop for strollers and watch a lesbian simultaneously give birth and defecate in an inflatable pool, later making kooky faces at the OBGYN's office when an internal ultrasound leaves a medical instrument covered in blood.

I get the impression that most of this stuff was made up while they were filming, as characters randomly disappear, previously unmentioned psychological conditions arise in an effort to fix plot holes during the climax and there are at least two sightings of human faeces. It all feels so incredibly laboured and awkward that it's difficult not to cringe when Stan bonds with Anthony Anderson at the playground over being mistaken as a paedophile and J-Lo's crippled dog eats a pregnancy test.

Worse still are Lopez's attempts to act likable and wacky. Her strained comedy and constant smiling are extremely off-putting and do nothing to endear us to her flat, one-note character. Never have I seen someone struggle so much to come off as a nice person. (Alliance)