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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 Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

Fresh from their legendary bomb, GIGLI, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez team up again in one of this year's least anticipated movies, JERSEY GIRL. This light-weight and sporadically enjoyable romantic comedy is an edge-free film by writer and director Kevin Smith's angelic twin. Smith's diabolically delicious dialog is almost non-existent, but every now and then the devilish Smith, whom we know and love from such sarcastic jewels as CHASING AMY and JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, sneaks out to give some wickedly funny lines.

As the story opens, Ollie Trinke (Affleck) is a workaholic executive at a PR agency in Manhattan. He is just about to marry a less driven but no less successful book publisher, Gertrude Steiney (Lopez). By the end of the first act, they will have a child named Gertie, played in later acts by 7-year-old Raquel Castro, an incredibly talented scene-stealer who looks a lot like Lopez. The first act ends Lopez's involvement in the picture. Later acts feature Liv Tyler as Maya Harding, a video store employee and student who is single dad Ollie's potential new love interest.

Ollie has a proclivity for saying horrible things at the worst possible moments. Denigrating his client and the press as well to a sea of reporters gets him fired. And saying something equally awful to his daughter crushes her spirit.

Ollie's first attempts at being a single father are complete disasters. When his baby daughter screams, he ignores her or yells at his father (George Carlin) to take care of her. When Ollie's dad balks at being an unpaid caregiver, Ollie is at lost as to what to do. Still wealthy at the time, since he hasn't yet lost his big PR job, he is a rich man who has never heard of the concept of daycare. He also doesn't know how to change a diaper, etc. The script, which has frequent credibility problems, has Ollie moving from a penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park to his dad's rundown New Jersey house, where Ollie gets work as a driver of a street sweeper. Ollie also switches instantly from a guy who cares nothing about his daughter to one who cares about nothing else.

As always, the most memorable scenes in Smith's movie concerns conversations about sex. "What are your intentions?" Ollie asks Brian, as Brian and Gertie sit nervously on the living room sofa looking at the stern adult. Ollie caught the two 7-year-olds harmlessly playing doctor with both them doing nothing more than staring at each other's private parts. He demands to know if Brian plans on marrying his daughter. This humorous incident is repeated later with Gertie in the parental role questioning Maya about her marrying Ollie, after Gertie catches them in something which they had hoped to be a bit more rigorous than a game of doctor.

The movie's other funny moment comes in an interview that Maya conducts in a diner. Questioning Ollie about his sex life for her class report, she is shocked to find that he has had no sex for the past seven years. Well, none other than his solitary sessions with the adult tapes he sheepishly rents from her store. "Man can not live on porn alone," she chastises him, as she takes him off to follow her advice to "get back on the horse, man." It is just before the mounting that Gertie walks in, which results in her aforementioned lecture.

The movie ends in the big cliché of a school play that the busy father -- Ollie is going for an interview in order to land another high-paying PR job. -- has trouble getting to on time. Of course, following the formula, he'll make it with barely a second to spare. JERSEY GIRL isn't a bad movie, far from it. But from Kevin Smith we rightly expect better.

JERSEY GIRL runs 1:43. It is rated PG-13 for "language and sexual content including frank dialogue" and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.

Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes

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