Back with a whimper


Faiza S Khan May 15, 2010

I’m not sure how it reflects on an actress that her behind be more famous than her work.

Nevertheless, this has been the case with J-Lo, ever since she sizzled onto the screen with Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, a film of such electric sensuality that she was forgiven her earlier work, for example, the creature feature Anaconda. Lopez has been on leave, not seen in mainstream cinema since her grating appearance in Monster-in-Law, a criminally vapid rom-com which not only regurgitated weak jokes, but crucially, wasted the magnetic presence of Jane Fonda (J-Fo).

Her comeback vehicle, The Back-up Plan makes one wish she had decided to stay at home and produce more children, and perhaps redecorate the east wing. A truly feeble romantic comedy, lacking conspicuously in both romance and comedy, The Back-up Plan relies on its novel plot twist to do the work for it. It doesn’t.

To give the screenwriters/director due credit, infinitesimal though the portion may be, the film attempts to address the problems faced by the modern woman who’s been led to believe that she can have it all; a great career, impeccable beauty, sexual appeal unlimited by age, a loving partner of her exact specifications, children, a beautiful home and somehow the time and energy to execute this without wondering why life is such incredibly hard work and wouldn’t death just be simpler.

To put it plainly, the film attempts to put a comic spin on the generation of working women playing by men’s rules, those who assumed a family would happen naturally on the side. Lopez plays a pet store owner, (a real step up from her last appearance in which she played a somewhat elderly dog walker) floating about nebulously in an unidentified wasteland of early middle age, not having much luck on the dating scene (though we don’t know why as she’s never really shown working onscreen) and growing more panicked at the prospect of having to substitute her desire for children with a desire for cats.

The eponymous back-up plan of the title refers to the somewhat taboo issue of artificial insemination, a device seen more in comedy than drama, for all that tells you about societal taboos relating to it. And obviously, what with men being like buses, the moment you meet one, or at least, the moment you’re artificially inseminated by one, there comes another. In this case, the man in question is buff cheese-maker Stan (Alex O’Loughlin). Naturally, he’s kind, loving and supportive and all that a heroine could possibly hope for.

But will their burgeoning romance be threatened by J-Lo’s burgeoning tummy? When J-Lo finds out that she’s expecting twins a fortnight into meeting Mr Right, she has to face the difficult decision of telling him, after some truly unfunny sequences of attempting to hide it. When she does finally reveal her predicament, the tension is unbearable. Just kidding.

Have you ever seen a Hollywood comedy in which the male protagonist wasn’t thrilled to bits over pregnancy, or babies, however they’ve been created? What follows is saccharine romance, sweetened further by the prospect of motherhood. This film may have sounded like good idea during its gestation period in J-Lo’s head about a year ago. That is where it should have stayed.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 16th, 2010.

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