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.
- Miramax Films
- 102 min
- Kevin Smith
- Kevin Smith
- Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, George Carlin, Raquel Castro, Jason Biggs, Jennifer Lopez, Stephen Root, Mike Starr
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