Back-Up Plan, The (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for sexual content including references, some crude material and language.
Length: 106 minutes
Grade: D-D+FF=F
Budget: $35 million
Box Office: $77 million (37 U.S., 40 Intl.)

Written by: Kate Angelo (TV only, like Bernie Mac, Will & Grace, and Becker)
Directed by: Alan Poul (TV only, like Swingtown, Big Love, and Six Feet Under)
Starring: Jennifer Lopez and Alex O’Loughlin
With: Michaela Watkins, Anthony Anderson, Robert Klein, Tom Bosley, and Linda Lavin (Yes, Arthur Cunningham and Alice are in this!)

Zoe is a commitmentphobe who wants children but can’t find a man worthy of her, so she artificially inseminates only to immediately run into the man of her dreams. Then they break up, but they get back together. Then they break up again, but they get back together. Then they break up again, but they get back together. Sound repetitive? Predictable? Try actually watching it for 80 minutes after the opening sequence ends.

Entertainment Value: D-
I’m sorry, did I give away my opinion of this movie? See, I actually was the one who said, “Hey, it’s Jennifer Lopez. I bet it’ll be cute and funny if not basically devoid of substance.” Well, one out of three in this case is bad. The only moments of humor were the over-the-top negative comedy riffs on parenting by Michaela Watkins and Anthony Anderson. Other than that, it was just so absurd and annoying that it was hard to watch. And remember, I wanted to like this! My wife looked at me afterward and, without having to actually voice the question said, “See?”

Superficial Content: D+
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity D, Violence C, Language D
There are a lot of sex and baby delivery related scenes, which are mostly revolting. Just to give you a sense of the experience, during one session where the gynecologist is probing around internally in the presence of the new boyfriend, the comedy comes from him deliberately repeating the word, “vagina” to get the guy over his embarrassment about the whole thing. Isn’t that lovely? There are several sex scenes, lots of sex talk, an overabundance of JLo in skimpy clothing (or less), and enough general vulgarity and profanity to make it at the upper end of PG-13, including an extended scene of a woman giving birth. I would have given it an R. R-15 at least.

Significant Content: F
I know there are some slightly deeper themes here, and I must begrudgingly note that the guy in the film is basically the normal, decent, and responsible one while the woman is the flake. Nevertheless, the idea that making a baby for yourself is good and normal (there’s a “single mother’s and proud” group), the optionality of marriage, and the normalcy of premarital sex as a lifestyle just got to me this time. That and the idea that children and parenthood are awful, basically. Not that any of the critiques are wrong, but the movie is oddly not at all parenting, a very odd flavor given the subject matter.

Artistic/Thought Value: F
Mostly because this movie just kept irritating me more and more. Are there really so few people capable of writing a decent script left in Hollywood?

Discussion Questions:
~What do you think of the ethics of a single woman choosing to have a baby? What would you say to someone considering this as an option? Given all the mocking of the single parents group, is the movie itself affirming or criticizing them and the idea of being proud of being a single mom?
~Does this movie seem to be advocating having children or not?
~This movie clearly intends us to believe that there is no right or wrong way to do sex, marriage, or parenting. What do you think? Does it matter what order you do things in?
~What are the differences, if any, between how Zoe and Stan’s relationship develops in this movie and how it would have been if she had already been a mother when they met?
~Is there any meaningful difference between raising babies which are biologically your own and those that you did not personally make?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Playground treasure find.
~The birthing experience.
Overall Grade: F
A movie like this could have been cute and funny, but it was mostly just vulgar and irritating. My greatest hope is that a week from now I won’t actually be able to remember any of it.

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