Kevin Smith’s neuters his sense of humor for Jersey Girl, an old-fashioned ode to paternal love that shamelessly goes for its audience’s tear ducts. Despite his ridiculous name, Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck) is a high-powered New York music industry publicist with a gorgeous wife (Jennifer Lopez) and all the material wealth he could want. But when his spouse dies in childbirth—saving us from having to endure another feature-length Bennifer romance—and Ollie is canned after a stressed-out news conference tirade, the destitute dad retreats to his father’s (George Carlin) New Jersey home to lick his wounds. Seven years later, he’s joyously working with pop as a county maintenance worker and tending to his sugary sweet daughter Gertie (Raquel Castro), who’s more than capable of matching her role models’ wise-ass quips. Smith’s flat, almost static direction never (with the exception of the lifeless Dogma) sabotaged his previous scatological comedies, and his run-of-the-mill visual compositions—though here photographed with a warm glow by Vilmos Zsigmond—are perfectly suited for this square, unimaginative weepie about one man’s realization that family is more important than fortune. Not surprisingly, Smith’s writing doesn’t totally dispatch with foul-mouthed jokes about “coked-out whores” and “crotch rot” or the obligatory Star Wars reference, but his textbook screenplay is predominately a mushy relic that could have been produced during the ’40s or ’50s. Ollie preaches—and then practices—abstinence, and while his beloved NYC looks beautiful, Jersey Girl’s heart is situated in quaint, small-town Jersey suburbia. By helping Gertie prepare for a school stage production of Sweeny Todd, driving a street sweeper for a living, and wooing a fetching porn-obsessed grad student (Liv Tyler), Ollie is able to resist the film’s third-act temptation of riches. Although there’s nothing offensive about Smith’s fantasy about familial bonds trumping all obstacles, Jersey Girl’s cloyingly manipulative construction—including a soundtrack filled with inoffensively poignant pop hits—frequently makes one want to gag. But hey, at least it’s not Gigli.
Kevin Smith’s films look like shit, but most are consistently funny. Jersey Girl may be the sole exception: it looks great (thanks to Vilmos Zsigmond), but can hardly muster a single laugh. Colors are vibrant on this DVD edition of the film, which preserves the film’s original 1:85:1 aspect ratio in anamorphic widescreen. The soundtrack is no-frills, but the Dolby Digital surround makes sure every line of Smith’s dialogue comes through okay. All in all, a top-notch transfer.
After the reviews Jersey Girl received early this year, you'd think Kevin Smith would have run for the hills. But on this DVD edition of the film, he helps Buena Vista roll out the red carpet. First up are two excellent commentary tracks that are way funnier than anything you'll find in the actual film. What Smith does here is a stroke of genius. It's as if he's realized that his core fan base wants nothing to do with Jersey Girl, so he goes ahead and records a commentary track that has almost nothing to say about the actual film. View Askew's most ardent fans will likely get a kick out of the second track, which features Smith, producer Scott Mosier, and Jason Mewes (!), but I much preferred Smith's track with Ben Affleck. As if trying to avoid a discussion about Jennifer Lopez, Smith goes on about his antagonistic relationship with three "old, haggard twats" from a London newspaper (The Mirror or The Guardian-he can't remember) who had it in for Jersey Girl after Affleck didn't show up for the premiere. It's some funny shit, and it gets better when the pair start talking at length about celebrity dating. Rounding out the disc is Smith's hysterical "Roadside Attractions" for The Tonight Show, a "Talk Shop" feature about Smith and Affleck's collaborations from Mallrats to Jersey Girl, a standard behind-the-scenes featurette, text interviews, and trailers for Finding Neverland, Shall We Dance?, Dear Frankie, Raising Helen, and The Alamo.
Skip the film but don’t miss the awesome "old, haggard twats" commentary track by Kevin Smith and Ben Affleck.