How Lo Can You Go?: "The Back-up Plan," "The Losers," and "Oceans" Print
Movies - Reviews
Written by Mike Schulz   
Sunday, 25 April 2010 13:07

Alex O'Loughlin and Jennifer Lopez in The Back-up PlanTHE BACK-UP PLAN

"All right. Let's hear your pitch."

"Well, we're calling it The Back-Up Plan. It's about this successful single woman named Zoe, desperate for a baby but fed up with the New York dating scene, who decides to get artificially inseminated and raise the child on her own."

"Ah. So you're thinking an intimate character drama about the hardships of pregnancy and single-motherhood?"

"Oh, hell no. Slapstick romantic comedy! You see, only a few minutes after her procedure, Zoe hails a cab and gets inside at the exact same moment that a handsome stranger does! They argue about who saw the cab first, Zoe storms off in a huff, and whammo! They're in love!"

"Brilliant! Who do you have in mind for the lead?"

"I'm hoping for Jennifer Lopez."

"It's been a while since she's been on-screen. How does she look these days?"

"Spectacular. And she's as charming as ever."

"And how about the guy?"

"I'm leaning toward this Australian actor named Alex O'Loughlin."

"Can he do a flawless American accent?"

"Can any of them not?"

"Touché. So what happens? I'm assuming Zoe gets pregnant ... ."

"Of course, but she doesn't want to tell the guy."

"Well, sure. For most men, that'd be a deal-breaker."

"Not for this guy, though! He's really sensitive."

"How sensitive?"

"He sells goat cheese at a farmers' market."

"Oh, man. That's good. So he's on board with the baby thing, they really like each other ... but where's the comedy in this setup?"

"Are you kidding? She's pregnant! Where isn't the comedy in this setup?! I mean, we've got Zoe trying to squeeze into skintight dresses and walk on six-inch stilettos, we've got the guy fainting during the ultrasound, we've got the couple freaking out when watching a live birth ... ."

"Uh huh, uh huh ... ."

"Plus, Zoe has an adorable pooch whose back legs are damaged and who has to roll around on a little cart ... ."

"Aw-w-w-w!"

"That's just the reaction we're going for!"

"Who do you want to direct?

"Alan Poul."

"Um ... Alan Poul? The executive producer from Six Feet Under? Does he have experience with slapstick?"

"Hey, when your leads are accidentally setting fire to a dinner table, or covering themselves in stew, or crawling around in a Manhattan dumpster, how much experience do you need? Plus, we're planning to get a whole bunch of sharp comics for the supporting cast - Robert Klein and Michaela Watkins and Eric Christian Olsen and Anthony Anderson and Melissa McCarthy ... ."

"And you've got them doing really funny things?"

"Well ... not necessarily ... but you know, they're there ... ."

"Gotcha. And I imagine you'll include scenes where it looks like the leads are breaking up, and there'll be sentimental montages underscored by downbeat pop tunes, and it'll all end with a big rush to get Zoe to the hospital after her water breaks ... ."

"At a wedding!"

"Perfect! It sounds foolproof, but I just want to make sure we have something in The Back-Up Plan for the older demographic. Like Betty White in The Proposal."

"We're way ahead of you - we've secured Linda Lavin as Zoe's grandmother, and Tom Bosley as grandma's 93-year-old boyfriend. They look older, of course, but they sound just the way they did in the '70s on Alice and Happy Days!"

"And those characters will appeal to younger audiences, too?"

"We'll have Lavin drop the F bomb."

"We want a PG-13."

"We'll have her drop it once."

"Wow, it's like these movies write themselves!"

"Isn't it, though?"

 

Zoe Saldana in The LosersTHE LOSERS

After my extreme displeasure with Kick-Ass, the über-violent action comedy that almost everyone I know likes, I thought the film had perhaps put a lid on my enjoyment of cinematic graphic novels once and for all. But then I saw The Losers, and realized it hadn't; it turns out I was just longing for an adaptation with a little less viscera, a little more cheerfulness, and fewer (preferably no) 11-year-olds getting punched in the face. Based on writer Andy Diggle's comic-book series, this action adventure concerning an elite Special Forces unit - one seeking revenge against the CIA operatives who ordered their execution - features nearly every bummer we've come to expect from its genre: inanely contrived plotting; a too-liberal use of slow-motion; ridiculously phony CGI fireballs. Yet against all expectation, the movie still winds up being an awful lot of fun. Boasting a surprisingly witty script by Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt, The Losers is the rare Hollywood blow-'em-up in which the tough guys' wisecracks, punchlines, and comic gambits are legitimately funny - Idris Elba and Chris Evans are given especially amusing, bitchy routines - and while the combat doesn't make a lot of sense, director Sylvain White at least choreographs it with verve and zip. (And, refreshingly, almost no bloodletting whatsoever; the titular Losers generally shoot their targets with narcotizing darts.) Best of all, amongst a supremely entertaining cast that includes Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Columbus Short, and Holt McCallany, Jason Patric comes through with both his most subtly vicious and most hilarious performance in years, playing a suave psychopath looking to market the world's first environmentally friendly nuclear weapon. I was delighted to realize that The Losers' filmmakers might be keeping him around for a sequel. I was shocked to realize that I'm now looking forward to that sequel.

 

OceansOCEANS

After taking to the skies in the sensational Winged Migration, French writers/directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud now take us underwater for the documentary Oceans, and the movie is as gloriously expansive and visually stunning as the Jacques' previous endeavor would lead you to expect. It's also, truth be told, a little bit duller than Winged Migration - the movie's 85 minutes occasionally crawl by as deliberately as its sea-floor denizens - and features patches of Pierce Brosnan narration that are left distractingly unexplored. (At one point, Brosnan reveals that the Orca whale has developed a particular method for catching and eating sea lions, but we're neither told nor shown what that method might be; from our view, it looks like the creature's master plan involves nothing more crafty than rising from the deep and gobbling his dinner whole.) Still, it's hard to be too disappointed by a film that provides so many extraordinary sights, among them a beachfront of horseshoe crabs that look like moving pith helmets, a spider-crab battalion that suggests a scene out of The Lord of the Rings, and the astonishing image of a blue whale, half a block long and weighing in at 120 tons. (There's also a rather haunting shot of a polluted ocean floor on which lies debris and a shopping cart.) Plus, as amazing as Oceans' visuals are, its sounds are sometimes even more incredible, and I'll not soon forget the sight of a mammoth sea lion lounging on the sand ... and emitting a truly awe-inspiring burst of flatulence. So, you know, kids will love the movie.


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