Zoe (Lopez) is a former corporate hotshot-turned-petshop owner tired of waiting for Mr Right to swoop in and help make her dreams of starting a family become reality. She decides to visit a fertility clinic and get the baby train rolling on her own, but as pure bad (good?) luck would have it, ends up meeting the potential love-of-her life in the taxi ride home. While initially reluctant to give cheese-maker Stan (O'Loughlin) a chance, she soon throws caution to the wind when she realises he could be the one she's been waiting for. Cue awkward attempts to hide her pregnancy, baffled astonishment when Stan finds out, and battling the build-up to the birth together.
The hilarity of The Back-up Plan is supposed to come from the fact everything is done backwards. Get pregnant. Start dating. Fall in love. But Zoe and Stan's relationship moves so fast you never really get the sense that they're still getting to know each other. Their courtship is stilted, clunky and dull, and it's only when they decide to give their romance a go that proceedings seem to liven up. Unfortunately, the script relies too heavily on a string of underdeveloped background characters for laughs, including an oddball group of single mothers and Zoe's employee Clive, who turns down the chance to be the "babydaddy" because he has too many women left to sleep with. There's also the ever-present "cute" pet, who - as in all rom-coms - seems to exist purely to drum up even more humour. In this case it's a handicapped dog with a customised wheelchair who eats a pregnancy test, topples over and begs for food.
There's no doubting that Lopez and O'Loughlin make a good looking couple - Lopez managing to radiate perfection even in labour - but there's a spark and chemistry missing between them that's really necessary to make their romance believable and inject a bit of life into the story, although both characters have shining moments on their own. It's great to see Lopez back on screen, and she brings a welcome vulnerability to Zoe, with her infectious excitement about the arrival and increasing frustration over her changing body, while O'Loughlin's best moments come from Stan's bonding with another father at the local park.
There's nothing really wrong with The Back-up Plan - it does get better as the movie progress - it just never manages to lift itself above a pretty standard rom-com, and every scene feels like it's been done before, and better. To be fair, there's probably a limited number of ways to make pregnancy refreshing and funny - particularly on the heels of Knocked Up - and there are a couple of genuinely funny moments, including the priceless sight of Lopez stuffing her face with beef stew using her bare hands. There's even a humorous nod to J.Lo's most famous asset as Zoe tries to convince Stan that her butt used to be her best feature. But in the end not even a good comeback performance from Lopez can make this anything more than a forgettable date movie.
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