When was the last time you read anything about Lindsay Lohan’s acting? The controversy-plagued starlet has been in and out of the celebrity tabloids over the last few years, sometimes partying wildly, sometimes sobering up, but almost never in negotiations to star in a movie, which is ostensibly her actual profession (we’ll just forget about her regrettable singing career). Lohan last hit movie theaters in 2007’s universally panned I Know Who Killed Me, which has been resurrected as something of a camp classic thanks to a few revival screenings. She’s perpetually rumored for a comeback, and perhaps she expected the pointless comedy Labor Pains, as mainstream and bland a film as they come, would be her ticket back to big-screen success.
Alas, Lohan is only about as big a star these days as, say, Candace Cameron Bure or Melissa Joan Hart, because like them she is about to be an ABC Family player, as Pains, originally intended for theatrical release, will be premiering instead on the cable channel (July 19, 8 p.m.). Co-starring Cheryl Hines, Chris Parnell and former American Idol contestant Kevin Covais, Pains looks cheap and comes complete with by-the-numbers plotting and wooden dialogue, just like, well, your average ABC Family made-for-TV movie. Plenty of space-filling mediocrities like this do get released to theaters, though, so maybe it’s just Lohan’s bad luck that a combination of shaky finances and her negative publicity pushed the movie to basic cable.
- Labor Pains
The truth is, Lohan isn’t the worst thing about the movie. She’s even semi-competent as Thea Clayhill, a struggling assistant at a Los Angeles publishing company who’s trying to support herself and her teenage sister after their parents passed away. When Thea’s oafish boss (Parnell, who could do a lot better) is about to fire her, she impulsively bursts out that she’s pregnant, thus saving her job but thrusting her into a web of lies that gets more and more complicated until the requisite third-act reveal.
There is nothing about Pains that isn’t predictable, although that’s precisely the point. Unlike the laughably nonsensical I Know Who Killed Me, Pains isn’t trying to surprise its audience or give Lohan a chance to stretch her acting muscles. She does her best to feign a handful of emotions, endures a chemistry-free love story with a sensitive co-worker and seizes a couple of opportunities to stand around in her bra and panties (a little risqué for ABC Family; the word “bullshit” is also conspicuously bleeped at one point, revealing the movie’s theatrical origins). It’s a straightforward grab for audience sympathy, and while Thea isn’t exactly likeable (she deceives her friends and family, lies to get ahead and suffers virtually no consequences), she’s no less appealing than your average rom-com heroine, and Lohan’s performance is pleasant enough.
Hines offers up a few amusingly acerbic lines, and at least brings more of her A-game than Parnell does. The weakest link is Luke Kirby as Thea’s love interest, a dull wet blanket with absolutely no charisma. Thea’s redemption hinges on their romance, and thus ends up feeling false. Also, the same basic storyline was handled in the B-plot of a single episode of Hines’ recent ABC sitcom In the Motherhood, so director/co-writer Lara Shapiro has to throw in a lot of detours and extraneous characters to get to 90 minutes in the first place. In other words, it’s another entirely forgettable ABC Family movie, which wouldn’t be notable except for the fact that Lindsay Lohan is so desperate to be remembered.