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Jersey Girl

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Jersey Girl

Starring: Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler
Director: Kevin Smith
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: March 2004
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Jennifer Lopez, George Carlin, Jason Biggs, Raquel Castro, Mike Starr, Stephen Root, Betty Aberlin, Matt Damon, Meghan Elizabeth, Jennifer Schwalbach

Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

They say that the biggest single change that can affect a person is the birth of his or her first child. The responsibility of bringing up a little one, combining the daddy/mommy track with the fast track, leads to a challenge that can either strengthen or weaken a marriage, can strengthen or weaken a commitment to work, and offers such early pleasures for new parents as changing diapers and sleeping like a baby, i.e. waking up screaming two or three times a night to fix whatever's bothering your new child. The situation facing Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck) in Kevin Smith's most sentimental and mellow comedy "Jersey Girl," when he becomes a father for the first time at age twenty- seven is far from idyllic. His dear wife, Gertrude Steiney (Jennifer Lopez) develops an aneurysm during childbirth and dies, leaving the youthful daddy with more stress than he can handle, given his fast-track job. Once we get past the tragedy, however, Kevin Smith's comic gifts become visible, positioning "Jersey Girl" despite an intrusive soundtrack that includes songs of Bruce Springsteen, Pete Townshend and Fleetwood Mac (plus the difficulty of believing that Affleck's character had not had sex for seven years)--with a light touch, an assortment of the sweet and acerbic with an emphasis on the former, and a dandy series of skits which, if performed separately, would work well on Saturday Night Live.

Smith opens on Ollie, one of New York's most successful publicists, specializing in MTV and overseeing a support staff that includes Arthur Brickman (Jason Biggs) as his right-hand man and chief gopher. When his wife dies in childbirth, he moves to a New Jersey town with his dad, Bart Trinke (George Carlin). A stressed-out Ollie loses it at a large press conference, calling the audience a bunch of jerk-offs who write for rags, is fired, and is blacklisted from the profession. It's now Two Men and a Baby for the next seven years, at which point Ollie who, as the tag line states wanted it all, gets more than he bargained for a precocious, sassy, seven-year-old, Gertie (Raquel Castro) to whom he can sometimes talk almost as man to woman.

Though Kevin Smith is not Mall-ratting, giving up as much of his previous commitment to vulgarity as he can, the writer- director's signature hand reaches out nonetheless. For example, Ollie meets pushy young video store clerk, Maya (Liv Tyler), who comes on to him with the line that she is writing a thesis on men who buy porn. Maya is determined to break the man's seven-year, no-sex cycle but get caught by little Gertie almost in flagrante. For belly-laughs, catch the hilarious job interview that Ollie takes with two PR executives (Matt Damon and Jason Lee), while for sentiment and a heavy dose of talent, watch the nine-year-old Ms. Castro (herself a budding J.Lo in appearance) shock an audience of parents at the elementary school show with a rendition of a blood-curdling scene from Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

George Carlin is going strong as the grand-daddy, who takes over as the little girl's nanny until his refusal to continue in that role forces his son Ollie to grow and up be a real dad. Kevin Smith states in the production notes that he was inspired by the unhappy thought, "How would I deal with the loss of one love of my life while raising the other alone?" What's more he admits "This isn't my funniest or most original film to date...not the most controversial or clever either...But it is my most personal." True. "Jersey Girl" is this year's Father's Day gift to the audience, a welcome statement on the importance of dad in any little girl's life.

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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