The Back-up Plan

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Back-up Plan Movie Poster Image
J.Lo romcom bursts with frank pregnancy, sex talk.
  • PG-13
  • 2010
  • 104 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 17 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie's ultimate point is that couples should learn to communicate and trust one another before jumping to conclusions and assuming anything. The lead characters must overcome many obstacles -- often related to the complexity of having children -- before they achieve this. Unfortunately, the movie can also be somewhat cynical and has the side effect of making childbirth and parenthood look unappealing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters in the movie are fairly flimsy, with narrow behavior patterns. Stan is annoying, but once he decides to stay with the pregnant Zoe, he sticks to his guns throughout, no matter how tough it gets for him.


There are some arguments and some shouting, and a few moments of slapstick, but nothing major.


There is very frank talk about sex and pregnancy, including the names of body parts and some unfortunate little details (such as uncontrollable bowel movements during a birth). The main character, Zoe, is artificially inseminated through a sperm donor, and we see and hear about this process. There's a scene of a natural birth (played for laughs) that includes a shot of a pregnant woman squatting naked in an inflatable pool; everything is visible through the water. Otherwise, the main couple (Zoe and Stan) flirts, kisses, and has sex, though nothing is shown. Zoe has a noisy orgasm, and Stan appears shirtless in one scene. In another scene, Zoe checks out her pregnant body in the mirror, but ducks out of sight a second later.


We hear strong, but not constant language, including one "f---k" and at least half-a-dozen uses of "s--t." Also in earshot: "Oh my God," "Jesus" (as an exclamation), "vagina," "pee," "sperm," "ass," "stupid," "penis," "damn," "hell," "bitch," "douchebag."


The couple likes to eat at Gray's Papaya, a real hot dog restaurant in New York. But otherwise, not an issue.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Zoe and Stan drink some wine during a date. Zoe's best friend Mona guzzles a glass of champagne in one scene, for comic effect. No one gets drunk. Zoe does not drink while pregnant.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Back-up Plan is a romantic comedy that deals frankly with sex and pregnancy, even though it contains very little actual nudity and the story itself is fairly chaste. There is one notable scene of a natural birth in which a naked, pregnant woman squats in an inflatable swimming pool; in one brief shot (played for comedy), her entire body is visible through the water. The movie also contains strong language, including one "f--k" and at least half-a-dozen uses of "s--t." Ultimately, the gruesome details of childbirth and looming parenthood may be unappealing and perhaps even terrifying to teens, but some parents may find something to laugh about.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byNat69 July 26, 2015


Well there's a lot of sucking lips but also boys loads of swearing it can freek kids out like when a women gave birth I thought it is quite inapropriate fo... Continue reading
Adult Written byTeam Ethan Jostad October 30, 2011

The back up plan review

Great movie! Jennifer Lopez did an outstanding job! Kuddos to her! But on the other hand here come the negitives. Jennifer is distressed because she cant find a... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bystargirl84 August 4, 2017

Loved it

This movie was all inclusive to certain rom-com cliches, but I love those cliches. There are shocking moments in Jennifer Lopez's character's life, wh... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bymoomoo123 June 19, 2017

What's the story?

New York pet store owner Zoe (Jennifer Lopez) wants to have a baby but can't find "Mr. Right." Worried that time is passing her by, she goes to her back-up plan: artificial insemination. Later that same day, she meets Stan (Alex O'Loughlin), a cheese maker, who turns out to be "the one." By the time Zoe discovers she's pregnant and Stan hears the news, they are already in love. Stan must learn to deal with the shock of suddenly becoming a father, while Zoe must learn to trust that Stan isn't going to run away.

Is it any good?

Directed by Alan Poul, a TV veteran making his feature debut, THE BACK-UP PLAN drags out every lazy romantic comedy cliché in the book. The lovers withhold information from each other, and then get mad and run away when the truth comes out. (In one scene, the heroine tells the truth out loud, but a cut reveals that she's only speaking to herself in a mirror.) The characters are paper-thin and their journey together is entirely routine and totally predictable.

But the movie also has the unfortunate side effect of making both pregnancy and impending parenthood look unappealing and even terrifying. For a movie with such a chaste setup, it has a very oddly cynical view of such things, not to mention a large collection of foul language. Teens are unlikely to find much appeal in the storyline, though there's enough juvenile humor to mildly entertain those who dare. Parents are more likely to find some laughs peppered throughout the otherwise tired routine. If this was the "back up," the filmmakers probably should have stuck to the original plan.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays pregnancy. Teens: What opinions did this movie leave you with about pregnancy and parenthood? Was this a realistic scenario?

  • Do you think this movie reinforces or challenges any stereotypes about male-female relationships? How do romantic comedies, in general, portray intimate relationships?

  • Teens: Could you relate to any of the experiences or ideas about taking care of kids that came up in the movie? How did this movie portray kids and the practice of caring for them?

Movie details

  • In theaters: April 23, 2010
  • On DVD or streaming: August 24, 2010
  • Cast: Alex O'Loughlin, Jennifer Lopez, Linda Lavin
  • Director: Alan Poul
  • Studio: CBS Films
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Run time: 104 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: sexual content including references, some crude material and language
  • Last updated: September 21, 2019

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate