Pregnancy has been the engine for so many movies, it’s hard to work variations on the theme: here comes the ultrasound scene, here comes the male fainting spell, here comes the spoof of New Age drum-beating.
Sure enough, all those moments fall into line in “The Back-Up Plan,” a tedious comedy that gives Jennifer Lopez her first movie in four years. It’s a rom-com that could easily have gone to Jennifer Aniston or Jennifer Garner or almost anyone else named Jennifer.
The wacky premise is that an artificially inseminated pet-store owner, Zoe, runs into the man of her dreams, Stan (Alex O’Laughlin), the very day she’s committed to being a single mother.
Stan owns a small organic dairy farm and is into the whole local-food movement. Well, of course he is. You don’t think screenwriter Kate Angelo would set up J-Lo with an accountant, do you?
He’s also got six-pack abs, which doesn’t hurt his chances. By the same token, Zoe and her friend (Michaela Watkins) are seen exercising so often you might think you’ve stumbled into a late-night infomercial.
Anyway, the pregnancy. Zoe must reveal it to Stan, who naturally assumed he was getting into a casual dating situation. Complications ensue, Stan is more of a louse than the movie seems to realize and hurdles must be manufactured before the fade-out.
All of which happens. And you know what else happens? Jennifer Lopez gets stuck in another subpar movie, that’s what.
She’s not going to break out of the rut with this kind of smoothed-over committee project, and it’s not going to happen with a lightweight leading man like Alex O’Laughlin, who provides evidence here that Australia has finally stopped producing an assembly line of brawny, charismatic actors.
Lopez is 40 now, although she looks much younger, and Hollywood (or her agent) still can’t figure out how to put this interesting performer in a movie.
“Out of Sight” stands alone, and that was in 1998. The title “The Back-Up Plan” describes this movie as a career choice: It will fill space until something better comes along.