With The Back-Up Plan, Jennifer Lopez returns to the big screen after being MIA for four years. Like most of her movies, this one falls in the romantic comedy category which proves, yet again, to be her forte. She plays Zoe, a 30 something successful pet store owner who has given up her chances of finding the elusive Mr. Right and becomes artificially inseminated.
All is wonderful in her life of future single motherhood until she bumps into Stan (Alex O'Loughlin), a divorcee who owns a farm and makes yummy cheeses. After battling over a cab, riding a train together and finding a lucky penny on the street, the two say goodbye having clearly left a flirtatious mark on each other. As much as Zoe wants to forget she ever met him and continue with her plan of solitude, Stan keeps popping up (both forced and unforced) in her life. It's no secret that Zoe will give in to Stan's rock hard abs, err... I mean, soft spoken emotions. But reality sets in when Zoe admits she is pregnant with a sperm donor's baby and Stan has to decide if he wants to stay in the relationship or walk away.
The journey and decisions that are made along the way of Zoe's nine month pregnancy are what contribute to the heart of the film in a way that makes it feel genuine with no lack of comedic flair. I found myself appreciating Lopez's character; she was honest and vulnerable. And I'm sure it was no mistake she got to show off her post-baby four pack stomach either. (Work it girl!) However, Lopez didn't hold back when the script called for her pregnant character to battle a meaty soup with just her hands, mouth and bread, or try to fall her way into a cab while wearing a too tight dress. She was charming and human.
I'll admit to having never seen Alex O'Loughlin's previous work, but he does very well at not appearing as a bumbling lovestruck idiot and instead pursues Lopez's character in an adorable (read: not creepy) way. His romantic gestures (disturbed by things like red wine spills and fire) are heart-flutter worthy and, in my eyes, instantly transform the unknown into a new competitor for the big screen rom-com leads.
Although the film centers mainly on Zoe and Stan, an array of comic relief side characters made their way into the spotlight as well. Michaela Watkins as Zoe's best friend Mona, Anthony Anderson as Stan's new found playground buddy and Melissa McCarthy as the leader of Zoe's single mother support group, all managed to make their comedic presence known without derailing the movie's plot.
Since viewing the movie last night, alongside more than a hundred other women all there for a girl's night out, I've read several reviews of the film. I was surprised to find such bad press. Some pieces debated that the film deters women from believing they can raise children on their own. My reaction: this movie wasn't meant to be a thesis topic for 2010 feminism movements. It's a romantic comedy, there's a formula: lead actress has to end up with lead actor, and we're just there for the ride. It's how the screenwriter (Kate Angelo) tells the story, and the how the actors portray it that should really garner our interest. And in my simple movie viewer eye, The Back-Up Plan was both romantic and comedic in a way that left me satisfied. As for Lopez, this newest wave into her sea of romantic comedies may very well be her best yet.
Follow Lauren J. Rivera on Twitter: www.twitter.com/laurenjrivera