April 22nd, 2010 | by ALISTAIR ROCKOFF News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Date Night Redeemed: The Back-up Plan Reviewed

It wasn't screened by WW press deadlines, but J.Lo's latest is the most heartwarming American film since last month's The Yellow Handkerchief. Seriously.

The Backup Plan

WW Critic's Score: 75

Years from now, children will still be asking their parents how they were born. Most parents will start with the birds and the bees. Some will have to explain the concept of artificial insemination. And a few moms and dads might find themselves mentioning a movie starring Jennifer Lopez. Yes, Virginia, The Back-up Plan really is that good. I'd say at least 75 percent effective.

If you've seen the commercial, you know the sell: J.Lo decides on single motherhood via sperm donor, then suddenly, inconveniently, meets the perfect man. I'd seen the commercial, I knew the sell, and as the premise unfolded before me, I settled in for another overlong sitcom. It's about when Zoe drives out to Stan's cheese farm that she starts to enjoy herself, and what do you know, so did I. There's a sex scene, very cheesy, but only in the literal sense of the word. Zoe's artificial pregnancy puts her in a bit of a pickle. She has a secret to tell Stan, but she also has more hormones than usual. I've no idea how many hormones is usual for J.Lo, but she lets out a gasp of premature ecstasy, and then, something adorable happens: Her eyebrows shoot up in girlish embarrassment. For Stan, too, this is not normal. He shoots her a quizzical look and says, “Did you just…?” Never underestimate the element of surprise.

The closer Jennifer Lopez and Alex O'Loughlin grow, the more you care about them, and the funnier their fellow New York yuppies seem by comparison. Manhattan gets a good-natured ribbing. There's a two-legged dog and a casual cameo by Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, and no one has to come out and say that this is just another strange form of urban parenting. The role of Zoe's best friend goes to Michaela Watkins, lately of Saturday Night Live. She sums up the cheerful vulgarity and cynicism that, for Zoe, just won't do.

The Back-up Plan surpasses the thoroughly unromantic Knocked Up, which wasn't so much about pregnancy as it was about a Hollywood stoner trying out his bad stand-up material. That movie had an explicit scene of childbirth I cannot even remember, but I won't soon forget the hippie ritual to which Stan and Zoe bear witness. Screenwriter Kate Angelo understands that what's more dramatic than the human body is our struggle to control it. J.Lo even plays with her popular image: Zoe's anxiety about her perfect posterior gives way to anxiety about commitment. For all its bland sitcom staging, this romantic comedy is more romance than comedy, building to a giddy crescendo of love. Why resist? PG-13.

The Back-up Plan opens Friday at Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century at Clackamas Town Center, Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99 Stadium 11, Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18 IMAX, City Center Stadium 12, Cornelius 9 Cinemas, Division Street Stadium 13, Evergreen Parkway Stadium 13, Hilltop 9 Cinema, Lloyd Center Stadium 10 Cinema, Movies On TV Stadium 16, Oak Grove 8 Cinemas, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinemas, Sherwood Stadium 10, Tigard 11 Cinemas, Wilsonville Stadium 9 Cinema.
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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