I attended a promo screening of Jennifer Lopez’s new film “The Backup Plan” in a theater that seats 374. The theater was full – which is always a bonus in judging audience reaction. There has been a huge media campaign to “sell” this film, which often means the film will likely tank at the box office. However, “The Backup Plan” is a very pleasant, and funny, surprise.
Jennifer Lopez plays Zoe, a single woman who has not met “Mr. Right” and feels her biological clock ticking. The one thing Zoe is sure about is that she wants a baby. So she opts for a sperm donor and insemination. This is not an uncommon choice among women today. And the process she has to go through brings laughter of recognition from the audience. The monkey wrench in Zoe’s plan comes in the form of Stan (actor Alex O’Loughlin) who suddenly appears as “Mr. Right”. That’s when the fun begins.
While the story of “The Backup Plan” is somewhat predictable, Jennifer Lopez gives a very believable, very funny performance as the conflicted Zoe. Plus, she looks amazing on screen. Her skin is flawless, her hair fabulous, she is as beautiful as ever. And as an actress, Lopez fully inhabits the character of Zoe and her psychological baggage. The beautiful Lopez is not afraid to literally dive into a huge pot of chili with both hands or eat greasy chicken in bed because the pregnancy has amped up her character’s appetite.
In addition, the film is filled with quirky, funny, fully developed supporting characters. Most notable is Michaela Watkins as Mona, Zoe’s friend and the reluctant mother of four who steals nearly every scene she is in. Zoe’s handicapped little dog evokes emotion from the audience in every scene he is in – either an “aw” for cuteness or a laugh. The topper is the “Single Mothers” group that Lopez joins. This group of oddball characters provides one of the funniest scenes in the film which had the audience practically falling out of their seats.
Screenwriter Kate Angelo understands that it takes more than romance to make both the film and the relationship work. It is much more of an uproarious comedy than a schmaltzy romance. Director Alan Poul makes sure that Lopez is shot in the very best light and from the most flattering angles. But Lopez herself really makes the film funny and poignant at the same time.
The only disappointment for me was Alex O’Loughlin as Stan. While certainly good looking, especially with his shirt off, he failed to rise to Lopez’s standard of performance on screen. He spends most of his time alternately angry and bewildered. And even the best characters in stories should have some obvious flaw, as we all do, but Stan doesn’t seem to have flaws.
I would definitely recommend “The Backup Plan”. It is not just a chick flick. There were plenty of men in the screening audience and they laughed just as much as the women. It’s nice to see Lopez back on screen in fine form in more ways than one. “The Backup Plan” opens nation-wide on Friday, April 23. Check your local theater listings.