In The Back-up Plan, Jennifer Lopez plays Zoe, a New York pet-shop owner who can’t find the right guy but decides to go ahead with her backup plan and have a baby anyway, courtesy of an anonymous sperm donor. Wouldn’t you know it, the moment after she gets pregnant — with twins, no less — she meets the right guy. His name is Stan, he’s played by the Australian-born American-TV hottie Alex O’Loughlin (who looks like a less squinty version of the young Jason Lee), and he’s an upstate dairy farmer who sells his delectable goat cheeses at her local farmers’ market.
For a moment or two in the culture, becoming a single mother seemed a hip thing to do, especially if you were a celebrity. But the current economic climate only highlights the challenges for women who decide to have kids on their own. The Back-up Plan is a romantic comedy caught between those two visions of single motherhood. Since Zoe is played by J. Lo, she’s radiant and silky, beaming with personal power. It’s no wonder that the moment she meets Stan, she’s thrilled and freaked at the same time: If she really falls for him, what on earth is she going to do with all that regal self-possession? Even as the movie, casting about for a romantic obstacle, proceeds to satirize Stan’s anxieties about fatherhood (the responsibility! the preschool tuition!), it seems to tiptoe around the real issue — that Zoe, now in love, would probably say that getting pregnant on her own was not a good idea.
As a romantic comedy, The Back-up Plan is friendly but also a bit drab. Its true subject isn’t love so much as the comedy of pregnancy. There are some very broad jokes about cravings, morning sickness, and hormones run amok. Zoe joins a support group for single mothers, and they’re played fairly broadly too (as New Age neurotics), though the movie does feature a home-birth sequence that’s a funny, up-to-the-minute explosion of feminine energy. A prediction: That sequence is going to sell the movie. At least, more than the central situation does. We’re supposed to believe that Zoe keeps pushing Stan away because she’s scared of depending on any man. But really, with this nice-guy hunk around, cautiously imploring her to let him be the father of her children, would she really want to raise those twins on her own? Too often, The Back-up Plan makes even the prospect of having it all look like something to complain about. B-