Don’t you hate it when you get artificially inseminated by a stranger and then – bam! – you meet the man you wish could have gotten you pregnant in the first place?
Yup, you know it’s a modern day rom-com when the plot sounds as strained as an “American Idol” contestant trying to hit a note way beyond his reach.
“The Back-Up Plan” starts with a superficial concept, but along the way sheds its gimmick and tries to find the truth behind a pretty complex courtship.
“When Harry Met Sally” it ain’t, but between the shirtless male lead and a starring turn by former Fly Girl Jennifer Lopez this “Plan” rallies past its artificial underpinnings.
In “Plan,” Lopez plays a woman named Zoe who officially gives up on meeting Mr. Right by undergoing artificial insemination.
And just when she raises the romantic white flag along he comes to steal her cab.
Stan (Alex O’Loughlin, he of the washboard abs and bland comic chops) is immediately smitten by Zoe, but he doesn’t know she’s pregnant.
Right away you can imagine the wacky hijinks to follow – Zoe trying to hide her growing belly via a number of far-fetched set pieces.
Instead, the film moves in a mature direction, letting the two get to know each other and see if a new baby will derail their steamy relationship.
“The Back-Up Plan” doesn’t shelve the rom-com formula entirely. Oh, no. We get the wacky best friends, the initial “meet cute” moment, the “will they or won’t they” twists and other genre staples.
But Lopez, far better known today for her diva dynamics than acting chops, grounds Zoe in a refreshing fashion. O’Loughlin is equally endearing, and he better be since his character might as well be labeled as Generic Dreamboat 101.
The narrative may take a few pleasant detours, but the script rarely gives the actors anything to nibble on. We get flat comic asides and stale relationship hiccups, none of which give depth to the story at hand.
But then along comes Alice – Linda Lavin herself – to give the story a delicious jolt. She plays Zoe’s Nana, and while she’s forced to talk dirty like most geriatric characters inserted into rom-coms, she’s good enough to transcend that cliche.
Lopez is far too dolled up to be a credible pet store owner, but she earns some blue-collar points by the way she wolfs down a slice of pizza and devours some beef stew on the sly.
Better yet, “The Back-Up Plan” shows she belongs back on the big screen even if the movie around her doesn’t measure up to its star.
(Photo: Jennifer Lopez and Alex O’Loughlin flirt over gourmet cheese in ‘The Back-Up Plan’)