Jersey Girl Movie Review

Kevin Smith grows up. The writer/director from Red Bank, N.J., temporarily retires his trademark Silent Bob shtick for Jersey Girl, which sticks to a cute but overused plotline, occasionally branching out to include a few (but not enough) sarcastic observations addressing parenthood.

Though it wasn't pre-planned, Smith's film also puts the final nail in the "Bennifer" coffin then begins the resurrection process on Ben Affleck's floundering, Gigli-ravaged career. For the first time in a long while Affleck carries a decent picture, making a stronger connection to Smith's casual dialogue than he does with any of his co-stars.

Hollywood's favorite hunk of wood plays music publicist Ollie Trinke, a Manhattan mover and shaker whose life detours after his wife (Jennifer Lopez) dies giving birth to the couple's daughter, Gertie. Ollie attempts to soldier through, but an on-the-job blunder costs him his cushy gig and sets up a running Will Smith gag that has a satisfying payoff. He moves back to New Jersey with his blue collar father (George Carlin), where he learns to accept his parental responsibilities and become the man Gertie needs him to be.

Jersey gets off to a strong start. Smith writes very well for his longtime leading man, and Affleck sells Ollie's self-centered tendencies better than he does the inevitable sentimental transformation. Ben is most comfortable when he's the sole focus of a scene, so his interactions with love interest Liv Tyler and feisty daughter Raquel Castro are flat. When Affleck selfishly argues with young Gertie about how much he misses his old lifestyle, though, we believe him and feel the pain of his loss.

It's worth mentioning that Jersey is a better looking film than Smith's previous archaic efforts. With legitimate cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond in tow, Smith experiments with edits, camera pans, wipes, and fades. From a technical standpoint, Jersey is Smith's Titanic, without all that pesky ice and water.

His screenwriting skills, though, still need polish. Smith's comments on parenting are insightful, but he's not focused enough to tackle those issues without avoiding after-school special territory. The conflicts facing these characters are recognizable, their resolutions predictable. Smith intentionally tones down his trademark vulgarity to bring his message to the PG-13 crowd, and slices the cherished edge off his voice in the process.

The DVD includes two feature commentaries (one from a relatively unapologetic Smith and Affleck, one from Smith, producer Scott Mosier, and oddball addition Jason Mewes), plus various behind-the-scenes extras.

Lovin' on Liv.


Jersey Girl Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG-13, 2004


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