Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jersey Girl (2004)

Following the slick, big-budget (and extremely raunchy) JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, Kevin Smith took a different direction with this romantic comedy about a young father who struggles with raising his daughter after his wife dies in childbirth. Smith had already demonstrated that he could combine more thoughtful, mature character humor with his trademark crude, adolescent comic sensibilities with the superb and surprising CHASING AMY, so it's a pity that JERSEY GIRL falls back on convention and predictable cliches that fit it so squarely into the "romcom" genre.

It is an uneven film, veering between overplayed melodrama and broad comedy, though Smith does manage to achieve a few genuinely touching moments here and there. There are still hints of Smith's trademark humor throughout -- mostly in the character of the crusty but lovable grandfather expertly played by the great George Carlin -- but for the most part he's traded the sex and bathroom humor for a tender, warmer kind of comedy. He deserves credit for exploring new territory, but it is a not altogether successful attempt. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, coming right off the universally-panned GIGLI, guaranteed that many critics and audience members alike came to the film with some built-in prejudices based on their presence alone. While Lopez's scenes are mercifully brief -- but effective enough -- as Affleck's wife who dies a short time into the film, Affleck handles his role well, as the hot young New York music publicist whose entire world shifts beneath his feet when he is forced to be responsible for someone other than himself for the first time in his life. Liv Tyler is the obligatory sympathetic love interest who helps heal Affleck's aching heart, and child actress Raquel Castro delivers a good performance as the daughter, being called on to veer between humor and pathos and doing so with apparent ease.

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