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.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a government agency, has listed cigarettes in movies as a key factor in teen smoking. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has said that studies show a clear link showing that kids who watch movies with smoking are more likely to smoke.
So, it is a small step forward that the CDCP announced last Thursday that scenes of smoking in high-grossing films fell to 1,935 incidents last year, down 49% from the recent peak of 3,967 in 2005.
This may in part be the result of a change in 2007 that includes smoking incidence in MPAA ratings, following four years of requests from state attorneys general and other groups. The MPAA has refused, however, to make smoking an automatic R-rating, even with an exclusion for historical accuracy in films like “Good Night and Good Luck.” “On April 22, 2009, the MPAA interrupted North Carolina Senate debate on landmark smokefree workplace legislation to demand a loophole for smoking in film productions. ‘The motion picture industry worries the bill would prevent actors from smoking on screen,’ reported the Associated Press,” according to Smoke Free Movies. They were successful in getting an exemption written into the law.
A significant factor in reduced smoking onscreen may also be pressure from websites that specifically review smoking in movies. Smoke Free Movies, a project of Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, has a directory of actors with more than three smoking roles. Scene Smoking from Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails, shows how smoking is shown in films, classifying it by whether it is the lead actor, a credited non-star, or an extra, whether the brand is shown, and whether the smoker is a good guy or a bad guy.
The CDCP says:
Although the behaviors and attitudes of family and friends are the main influences on adolescent decisions to use tobacco, the media–films, television, and the Internet–also influence these decisions.5-8 According to recent studies,
* Current movie heroes are three to four times more likely to smoke than are people in real life.5,6,9
* Young people in the United States watch an average of three movies a week, which contain an average of five smoking episodes each, adding up to about 15 exposures to smoking a week. Young people may be exposed to more smoking in movies than in real life.
* A teen whose favorite star smokes is significantly more likely to be a smoker.
* Approximately two-thirds of films seen today show tobacco use, including films that are rated PG or PG-13 and intended for young audiences.
* Films depicting tobacco use are increasing and are reinforcing misleading perceptions that smoking is a widespread, socially desirable, and normal behavior, and they fail to convey the long-term consequences of tobacco use.
Smoke Free movies notes, “The 390,000 kids recruited to smoke each year by the smoking they see on screen are worth $4 billion in lifetime sales to the tobacco companies. And that’s just in the United States.”
The CDCP has a video about the influence of movie smoking on teens called “Scene Smoking: Cigarettes, Cinema and the Myth of Cool.” It is available for view online or by DVD.
Belated but heartfelt thanks to Jinni for including me in the list of the top 60 movie blogs. I’m honored. The other 59 are well worth checking out, too.
This warm-hearted dysfunctional family comedy-drama benefits from an exceptionally strong cast, including producer Andy Garcia as the father, Julianna Margulies as the mother, and Steven Strait as the young man just released from prison who sets off a series of revelations.
Everyone in the Rizzo family is hiding something. Daughter Vivian (Garcia’s real-life daughter, Dominik GarcÃa-Lorido) is not in college as her parents think. She is supporting herself as a stripper. Her brother Vince Jr. (Ezra Miller) is struggling with his desire to see heavy women eat, especially his next door neighbor, who has a website called “Feeding Denise” and one of his classmates. Mom Joyce (Margulies) has not given up smoking. But it is Vince, Sr. who has the really big secrets. One, he has a son from a relationship before he met Joyce and he has just met the young man for the first time, at the prison where he is a corrections officer (don’t call him a guard) and his son (Strait, superb as Tony) is about to be released. Two, he wants to be an actor. He is taking classes with Michael Malakov (Alan Arkin) and has made friends with a classmate, Molly (Emily Mortimer).
Writer-director Raymond De Felitta has obvious affection for his characters and he keeps the developments from going too far. The situations may be outrageous, but deft performances keep the battles from being shrill and the situation more fairy tale than soap opera. This is one of those little indies that inspired a great deal of enthusiasm from its audience and should make even more fans on DVD.