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The Back-up Plan DVD Review

The Back-up Plan movie poster The Back-up Plan

Theatrical Release: April 23, 2010 / Running Time: 104 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Songs List

Director: Alan Poul / Writers: Kate Angelo

Cast: Jennifer Lopez (Zoe Simone), Alex O'Loughlin (Stan), Michaela Watkins (Mona), Eric Christian Olsen (Clive), Anthony Anderson (Playground Dad), Noureen DeWulf (Daphne), Melissa McCarthy (Carol), Tom Bosley (Arthur), Maribeth Monroe (Lori), Danneel Harris (Olivia), Robert Klein (Dr. Scott Harris), Linda Lavin (Nana), Carlease Burke (Tabitha), Amy Block (Sara), Jennifer Elise Cox (Baby Store Sales Clerk), Adam Rose (Louie), Cesar Millan (Himself)

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Upstart studio CBS Films has had its philosophy of mid-size, star-driven movies put to the test this year. Their first release, the inspirational true drama Extraordinary Measures headlined by Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford, demonstrated that accomplished actors and a moderate budget weren't enough to generate profits. The movie put up one of the weakest openings of the year and of all time. CBS' second effort (originally supposed to be their debut), The Back-up Plan, kept production costs down to an unremarkable $35 million, but its "star-driven" part of the equation seems more in question. Its only big name actor is Jennifer Lopez, whose star power seems to have peaked with 2002's Maid in Manhattan and whose music career and motherhood had kept out of a wide film release for five years. The Back-up Plan is not much of a comeback vehicle, but it is a vehicle, something any actress over 40 seems lucky to receive these days.

This romantic comedy casts Lopez as Zoe, a New York pet shop owner who meets what could be Mr. Right just minutes after being artificially inseminated.
Once that high concept premise is established, the movie never strays from it or elaborates upon it.

Of course, boy and girl's initial meeting is less than peachy; they both go for the same cab on a rainy afternoon. His name is Stan (Alex O'Loughlin, the Australian star of CBS' short-lived paranormal drama "Moonlight"), a fact that's learned when he's spotted at a farmer's market where he sells his cheeses. Like a regular Joseph, he decides to stick around with Zoe after she finds the courage to tell him she's pregnant (which doesn't occur until halfway in).

The rest of the movie pulls from a stale bag of pregnancy and parenthood jokes. She is hungry, horny, queasy, tired, and hormonal. And he's a man, so his patience is constantly tested until he wakes up in the middle of the night and nervously makes pancakes while mentally calculating tuition costs. Oh, and get this, she's having twins. Twins!

Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) does some thinking after receiving her first sperm injection. On their third meeting, Stan (Alex O'Loughlin) shows up at Zoe's (Jennifer Lopez) pet shop for a Cesar Millan talk/signing.

Mediocre at its best and jaw-droppingly terrible at its worst, The Back-up Plan is stupid and charmless. The writing in the first screenplay by 5-year TV veteran Kate Angelo ("Becker", "The Bernie Mac Show") is lazy and lousy and it doesn't get any better in the delivery. And why would it? With the exception of Lopez, this is a cast that'd be at home on Lifetime and frankly she's one dud away from having her acting ambitions fit in there.

Seeming like a cut-rate Patrick Dempsey, O'Loughlin struggles with his role, trying too hard to find the right tone for his lightweight character. With movies like The Wedding Planner and Monster-in-Law behind her, Lopez is more comfortable with the weak material than she should be. The rest of the cast is populated by actors teetering along the edge of recognizability:
short-lived "SNL" featured player Michaela Watkins assumes the requisite snarky best friend part as kid-hating mother Mona, while Eric Christian Olsen, Noureen DeWulf, Anthony Anderson, and Robert Klein accept minimal-impact expository roles. Probably the film's second most famous actor, "Happy Days" patriarch Tom Bosley, suddenly looks shockingly frail and ancient as Zoe's grandmother's longtime fiancι.

The Back-up Plan sprinkles in enough profanity and sex to easily secure a PG-13 rating, but that hardly dilutes its cable TV movie feel. Every one of its gags is foreseen. Dumpster digging, an oversized double stroller, old people karaoke, and a crippled inbred dog with his back paws on wheels feature as slapstick, so you can only imagine the hilarity found here. The most extended subject of comedy is a single mothers support group (which votes to oust Zoe when she keeps talking about her man) who give us the kiddie pool water birthing scene you've always hoped for.

Zoe's dog Nuts, whose disabled rear paws are on wheels, is bound to be viewers' favorite character. Playground Dad (Anthony Anderson) preps Stan (Alex O'Loughlin) for fatherhood over a couple of juiceboxes.

The movie isn't any better when it's not striving for chuckles. It creates and topples obstacles for the challenged couple without imagination or wit. It's the kind of film that turns a price tag rip into a romantic moment.

Considerably weaker but more widely distributed than Extraordinary Measures, The Back-up Plan narrowly eclipsed its production budget domestically and doubled it overseas, becoming CBS' new box office king. Although its earnings don't rival those of Lopez's three big prior romcoms, they were enough to put a light breeze back in the young studio's sails after its unpromising start.

CBS Films' home video distributor Sony brings The Back-up Plan to DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday.

Buy The Back-up Plan on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: August 24, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $28.95
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($34.95 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

DVD presentation isn't among The Back-up Plan's problems. The movie looks great in its 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. (Is anything not shot in that wider aspect ratio these days?) Picture is clean and vibrant. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack, which heavily samples unfamiliar contemporary pop (song list at bottom of review), may not have a tremendous presence, but it also doesn't disappoint.

Zoe's sparsely seen pet shop workmates (Eric Christian Olsen and Noureen DeWulf) meet Stan in this deleted scene. A wall sign thoughtfully serves to identify first-time feature director Alan Poul throughout "Bell Laughs: Making 'The Back-up Plan'." J.Lo is happy to find herself on the montage of the main menu adapted from the animated opening credits.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Just two kinds of extras are provided on the DVD.

First up come four deleted scenes (5:10), most notably Stan talking with Zoe's Hudson Mutts employees
(Eric Christian Olsen and Noureen DeWulf) and accepting playground bench wisdom from his new sage dad friend (Anthony Anderson).

Then, we get the obligatory featurette in "Belly Laughs: Making The Back-up Plan" (11:34). Praise is poured on the script (it made director Alan Poul cry), Jennifer Lopez (an inspiration to ethnic actresses, more beautiful in person), Alex O'Loughlin (handsome), the human and canine supporting cast (from "fresh" Michaela Watkins to Tom "T.Bo" Bosley), and the overall experience. And here, I thought they were all just making a routine romantic comedy.

Though The Back-up Plan's own trailer isn't included, several other Sony promotions are. The disc loads with ads for Blu-ray, The Bounty Hunter, Stomp the Yard: Homecoming, and The Runaways. To these, the Previews menu adds pitches for Nine, To Save a Life, The Young Victoria, and "My Boys."

The main menu dials up the cute with a pregnancy test listings bar, heart cursors, and all kinds of baby imagery modeled after the animated opening titles (the film's creative apex).

Dr. Harris (Robert Klein) surprises Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) and Stan (Alex O'Loughlin) with an ultrasound discovery: she's having twins!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If CBS Films wants to be taken seriously as a movie studio and not just an expensive extension of its senior-skewing network, it would do well not to employ TV actors, writers, and directors to make dumb cookie-cutter romantic comedies like The Back-up Plan. Perhaps the idea was to elevate those around J.Lo to her lofty artistic heights, but this puerile product just drags her down to her collaborators' levels and lower. It's sure to rank among the year's worst for me.

On DVD, Back-up Plan gets a flawless feature presentation but a light supply of extras. I would recommend a rental only to suckers for romcoms and devoted fans of Lopez and (if they're out there) O'Loughlin. But even this demographic would probably do as well to revisit one of her greatest hits or enjoy the few weeks before his "Hawaii Five-O" remake is cancelled.

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The Back-up Plan Songs List (in order of use): V V Brown - "Bottles", India.Arie - "A Beautiful Day", Michael Franti & Spearhead - "Say Hey (I Love You)", "Crystal Rain", The Submarines - "You Me & The Bourgeoisie", Moby - "Disco Lies", Colbie Cailliat - "Fallin' for You", Kudu - "Let's Finish (Sinden Remix)", "Daisy Belle", Jessica Jarrell - "Key to My Heart", Snatam Kaur - "Mool Mantra", "Golden Slippers", Tom Liston & Steel Tropics - "Sweet Calypso Woman", k-os - "Crabbuckit", "Trumpet Voluntary", "Pizzicato Waltz from Sylvie", Raney Shockne - "She Drives Me Crazy", Barbara Perry - "What a Wonderful World", Jennifer Lopez - "What is Love?"

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Reviewed August 19, 2010.



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