The business plan behind CBS Films is simple: midsize projects with good-size headliners, such as Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser of the inaugural CBS Films effort "Extraordinary Measures," or Jennifer Lopez, who co-stars with Aussie hunk Alex O'Loughlin, in the romantic comedy "The Back-up Plan." It's a sound strategy. If the theatrical arm of CBS ever green-lights a script worth a damn, it just might work.
Already, you may have made up your mind whether or not to see "The Back-up Plan" based on the cuteness of the leads. Lopez plays a single Manhattanite who owns a Greenwich Village pet store and whose wheelchair-bound dog is her only steady male companionship, though we're told Zoe has dated "hundreds of guys" without finding the one who's rom-com-worthy. She has trust issues, though no money issues. "We're going to be OK," she says late in the game. "I've got money saved." Money is never an issue in fairy tales like this, unless it's the only issue, solved by a miracle of plotting.
Cheese-maker Stan, played by O'Loughlin, inherited his parents' farm upstate and sells his wares and his hunkocity at the Tribeca Farmers Market. One day, in the rain, just after Zoe has gotten herself artificially inseminated, she jumps into a taxi at the same instant Stan opens the other door. Can you imagine? Funny old world.
They argue, they date and, because this needs to be of movie-length, Zoe takes a frustratingly long time to reveal her pregnancy to Stan.
We're told in a fly-by expository sentence that Stan's own insecurities come from his nympho ex-wife. I am not the target audience for "The Back-up Plan's" money shots, such as shirtless Stan looking all Playgirl Farmer of the Month atop his tractor, and bammo! Zoe is so distracted by the sight, she slams her car into a tree. The characters are meant to be attractive and likable, but they come off like narcissistic divas. At one point, Lopez waxes nostalgic about the posterior she used to have, pre-pregnancy. It's a shameless plug for one of the most renowned backsides in American entertainment. Yet, who among us would disagree that Lopez's personal backup plan helped make "Anaconda," among other entertainments more entertaining than this one, something to behold?
Lopez was relatable back then, when she didn't have to convince anyone she was still Jenny from the block, never mind the entourage. In the late '90s, from " Selena" to "Anaconda" to, especially, Steven Soderbergh's "Out of Sight," she not only had It, but an easy warmth to go with It. Several contrived rom-coms later, the actress has become a calculating sort of charmer, a mirror of the material she's given. "In a year's time this'll just be a funny memory," one character says of her latest film's on-again/off-again/not-this-again storyline. Well, a memory, anyway. For the record, Kate Angelo's script was directed by Alan Poul.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sexual content including references, some crude material and language)
Cast: Jennifer Lopez (Zoe); Alex O'Loughlin (Stan); Michaela Watkins (Mona); Eric Christian Olsen (Clive); Noureen DeWulf (Daphne); Linda Lavin (Nana); Tom Bosley (Arthur); Anthony Anderson (Playground Dad); Robert Klein (Dr. Harris)
Credits: Directed by Alan Poul; written by Kate Angelo; produced by Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch. A CBS Films release.
Running time: 1:44.