Lindsay Lohan’s planned theatrical feature “Labor Pains” got diverted directly to TV — a setback for the star (whose off-screen exploits have mostly eclipsed her onscreen resume), but a promotional coup for ABC Family. Bigger-than-usual names aren’t the only tell-tale sign this romantic comedy wasn’t produced with basic cable in mind, including the conspicuous bleeping of “bullshit” a couple of times and some awkward edits. As for the movie itself, it’s a weak and improbable premise, though honestly, worse romantic comedies have certainly been unleashed into theaters.

Lohan plays Thea, who’s raising her teenage sister by working as an assistant at a publishing house. On the verge of being fired for mouthing off about her boss (overplayed by Chris Parnell), in an act of desperation she announces she’s pregnant, thus inoculating her from dismissal.

Thea begins to enjoy the perks that come with people believing she’s expecting, including kindnesses from co-workers, her landlord and even strangers giving up their seats on the bus. She also begins to bond with a handsome if slightly nebbish-y editor (Luke Kirby) over a “what’s it really like to be pregnant” book, even as her pal Lisa (Cheryl Hines) and sister (Bridgit Mendler) warn her about how long she can sustain this preposterous lie.

The recognizable faces in smaller, mostly nothing roles (Hines, Tracee Ellis Ross, “Ugly Betty’s” Ana Ortiz, Janeane Garofalo as an Oprah-like talkshow host) signal that “Pains” wasn’t produced on a customary TV movie budget and probably left “B” matter on the cutting-room floor; still, virtually everything here — from the demographic slant to the subject matter — neatly dovetails with the network’s young-female profile. Indeed, ABC Family’s last movie, “My Fake Fiance,” almost qualifies as a prequel in the silly-deception department.

Directed by Lara Shapiro, who shares writing credit with Stacy Kramer, the movie experiences its downfall in dragging out Thea’s ruse (which she carries off with padding from a maternity shop) as she digs the hole deeper and deeper. As the lies pile up, any sympathy one might harbor for her quickly evaporates.

For all that, there’s a glint of chemistry between Lohan and Kirby, and the star (whose dresses stay short throughout) is shot in an especially flattering way, even with the faux belly. Truly exploring the politics and pressures associated with pregnancy, however, is beyond the movie’s shallow depths.

“Labor Pains” is receiving a theatrical release in parts of the world, and will be issued on DVD shortly after its premiere. All told, it’s a rather ignominious birthing process for a movie that isn’t painful, necessarily, but delivers little that’s worth paying admission to see, either.

Labor Pains

Movie; ABC Family, Sun. July 19, 8 p.m.

  • Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Nu Image and Latitude Films in association with Overnight Prods. and Plum Pictures and presented by Millennium Films. Executive producers, Avi Lerner, Brian Edwards, Danny Dimbort, Boaz Davidson, Trevor Short, Joe Gatta; producers, Rick Schwartz, Celine Rattray, Lati Grobman; director, Lara Shapiro; writers, Stacy Kramer, Shapiro;
  • Crew: camera, Daniel I. Stoloff; production designer, Daniel Bradford; editor, Anne McCabe; music, Andrew Hollander; casting, Matthew Lessall. 120 MIN.
  • Cast: Thea - Lindsay Lohan Nick - Luke Kirby Lisa - Cheryl Hines Jerry - Chris Parnell Kristin - Tracee Ellis Ross Claire - Janeane Garofalo Emma - Bridgit Mendler