Kevin Smith takes his first stab at semi-serious work with Jersey Girl, a Ben Affleck-starring romance-comedy-drama-father-daughter movie. Though die hard fans of Smith's earlier films, which include Mallrats and Chasing Amy will be mightily disappointed that their beloved Silent Bob "sold out," Jersey Girl is a surprisingly heartwarming and entertaining movie. And those worried about the presence of Jennifer Lopez need not worry - she dies within the first few minutes of the film.
Jersey Girl takes a look at the life of Ollie Trinke (Affleck), who meets, falls in love with and marries Gertrude (J-Lo). He's a top publicist for one of the most successful PR firms in New York City - that is until his wife dies during childbirth and he insults Will Smith in front of the press. Suddenly out of a job and without a wife, he and his daughter Gertie (Raquel Castro) move in with his father (George Carlin) in Jersey. Seven years later, Ollie meets someone who may change his life - a video store clerk named Maya (Liv Tyler).
In most respects, Jersey Girl is your run-of-the-mill light drama. Once J-Lo dies, there are some scenes where Affleck struggles with childrearing for the first time, something that's been done in hundreds of films. At the end of the movie, he finally has the chance to reclaim the life he once had, but, of course, his interview falls on the same day as his daughter's big dance performance. Again, it's been done before. Still, Smith does a fabulous job of taking everything with stride and filling the story with great performances, good dialogue and interesting characters.
Jersey Girl is entertaining from beginning to end. Gone is Smith's sharp and crude humor, but the PG-13 remnants remain prove Smith can be equally funny under watered-down circumstances. There are plenty of funny scenes, even if the movie is by most accounts a drama, and there are plenty of subtle jokes not everyone will pick up on. Affleck, who has been receiving all kinds of horrid reviews ever since "Bennifer" and Gigli, is actually quite good here. He is best as a supporting actor, but he's very believable and likable as Ollie (what kind of name is that, anyway?). Even better, he works well with the various women he deals with through the course of the movie, namely young Castro, who is terrific in her first role, and Tyler, who is really pretty funny. The first few scenes between Tyler and Affleck are especially humorous and you can tell Smith wanted to take things to the next level - the R-rating level, that is.
The movie stars Ben Affleck. The movie has J-Lo in it. Kevin Smith directs it without including Silent Bob. Despite all this, Jersey Girl is an entertaining movie that will appeal to broad audiences. Obviously, a lot of people are put off by Affleck's involvement in anything, Jennifer Lopez has rarely been in a good movie and family audiences might be frightened by the direction of Kevin Smith, but none of these fears are warranted. Jersey Girl is a good movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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