Published Mar 01, 2004As the first (and most likely last) movie to feature Bennifer (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez) since the brain-cell-killing disaster that was Gigli, it's unfortunate that Jersey Girl won't be judged on its own merits, rightly or wrongly. Also clouding the issue is that Jersey Girl is Kevin Smith's first movie since he declared his desire to stop writing about "characters whose central preoccupations were dick and fart jokes," and his legions of fans will be curious and cautious to see what that exactly means.
In the case of Jersey Girl, it means that Smith has traded in most of his witty, yet realistic, sharp dialogue (Clerks, Chasing Amy), clever storytelling (Dogma) and, yes, dick and fart jokes (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) for a fairly rote romantic comedy with a bit of tragedy and fleeting bits of Smith's former edge.
Jersey Girl is mainly a vehicle for Ben Affleck (Ollie Trinke), who loses the love of his life (Lopez), his star publicist job in New York City and is forced to move back to New Jersey with his newborn baby girl into his father's house (played but the gruff George Carlin). Years pass (the movie starts off set in '91 and finishes towards the end of the '90s) and Affleck works for the city, but dreams of regaining his old NYC existence. Complicating matters after he's offered a chance to regain his former life is a potential romance with a liberal video store clerk (Liv Tyler without the Elf ears) and his daughter's desire to stay in New Jersey.
Will Ollie choose the love of his daughter, father and potential new girlfriend or his formerly dead career? If it was the Smith of a couple years ago, Ollie would go date a lesbian or fight a rubber poop monster, but the outcome is never in doubt.
But despite its formulaic, predictable plot, Jersey Girl isn't bad. It's a sentimental movie, but it seems genuine in its sentiment. Affleck is also good and emotive (he does his best work with Smith) and the performance from Raquel Castro as his daughter Gertie is solid overall.
Still, Jersey Girl seems like a transition film for Smith (which it is), with not enough of his former attributes (it's frustrating seeing them briefly flash by on screen) and not enough innovation in a generally mainstream film to make anything beyond okay. If this is the new Smith, I kind of miss the poop monster. (Alliance Atlantis)