Movie Mom

This movie’s best use could be population control. No one who sees it will want to get pregnant or raise children. It could also be used to show aspiring screenwriters what not to do.

Other than that, I can’t think of any reason not to ship it back to the studio and recycle the film stock. If you were planning to go see this film in theaters, I hope you have a back-up plan.

Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) has decided that not having a man in her life should not mean she does not have a child in her life. So, she goes to a doctor (Robert Klein) to get artificial insemination. And that very day, she meets Stan, a guy who could be The One (bland Alex O’Loughlin).

It could have worked. But instead of giving any thought to the interesting possibilities of the story, it is just another boneheaded replay of the dumbest sitcom pregnancy and parenting cliches. They scrape the bottom of the barrel and then they dig a little deeper. Zoe barfs. She gets super-hungry. She has hormonal swings. She gets depressed about getting fat. She worries that he won’t love her any more. And the costume designer seems to have been heavily influenced by “Flashdance.” Lopez’s bare shoulder appears so often it deserves its own trailer. O’Laughlin’s bare chest is so crucial to his performance it deserves an agent.

Meanwhile the movie wastes the time and talent of two brilliant comic actresses in supporting roles, Jennifer Elise Cox (unforgettable as Jan in the Brady Bunch movies and in one of the funniest scenes ever on “Will and Grace“) and Micheaela Watkins (Hoda Kotb and the blogger on “Saturday Night Live”). The adorable Melissa McCarthy (“Gilmore Girls”) and the very funny Anthony Anderson are stuck in roles with lines that pull them down like quicksand. Only Linda Lavin (television’s “Alice”) manages to maintain some dignity as Zoe’s Nana, engaged for decades (and if you guess her fiance is “Happy Days'” Mr. C., Tom Bosley, you are correctamundo).

There isn’t one fresh or believable or even sympathetic moment in the whole mess. Zoe and Stan are supposed to be endearing. She left her successful corporate job (with plenty of money socked away) for a cuddly little pet store and is so tender-hearted that her own pet is a dog who needs to have his back half supported on wheels. Stan lives on a farm, makes cheese, and is studying to get his college degree. But these are check-lists. They don’t add up to personalities. The movie clearly thinks these people are far more appealing to each other and to us than they really are. If first-time director Alan Poul and screenwriter Kate Angelo want us to care about these characters separately or as a couple, it might make sense to give us some reason to believe that they have the ability to care about anything other than themselves.

For one thing, this is a movie about pregnancy in which no one much likes babies or children. Zoe has a friend who repeatedly claims to hate her four children and shows no sense of responsibility or affection for them. Stan has a friend who describes parenthood as: “Awful, awful, awful, awful, and then something happens. And then awful….” Zoe goes to a single mother’s group with one member who insists on having the entire group in the room as she gives birth in a kiddie pool. Her grimaces and grunts are supposed to be funny. So is a dog chewing up a pregnancy test stick. So is a single mother who insists on breast-feeding a three-year-old. So is the water breaking in the middle of a conga line at a wedding. Not, not, not, not, not. At the exact moment we should be saying “Awwww….” we are thinking about calling Child Protective Services. Or Audience Protective Services.

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