Jersey Girl

The new, 'mature' Kevin Smith makes a 'cute kid' movie, with sickly results

Director: Kevin Smith

Starring: Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, George Carlin


Plot Summary: Music publicist Ollie Trinke (Affleck) loses his wife (Jennifer Lopez), during childbirth, and his job and retreats with his daughter (Raquel Castro) to Highlands, New Jersey to live with his father (Carlin). Stuck in a dead-end job, he must, with help from new love interest Maya (Tyler), choose between what's best for him and what's best for his daughter.

Review: I love Kevin Smith movies.

I thought Clerks was brilliant. I've seen Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back more times than I'd care to mention. I own Mallrats, for Christ's sake.

But Jersey Girl sucks.

And Jersey Girl doesn't suck because of Jennifer Lopez, either - her role is small and she's not at all bad. Sadly, most of the blame lies with Kevin Smith himself.

In his first five films, all featuring stoner duo Jay and Silent Bob, Smith aimed mainly for laughs and usually hit the target.

Now in his mid-30s and married with a child, Smith has clearly become uncomfortable with the "dick and fart" gags of his so-called New Jersey Trilogy.

"If I had any balls whatsoever, I'd make nothing but Jay and Silent Bob flicks for the rest of my life," Smith told the indieWIRE website back in 2001. "However, being a critical whore, I've gotta move on and 'grow' beyond those characters."

Jersey Girl, a "dramatic comedy," is that attempt to grow beyond Jay and Silent Bob.

Ambitiously, Smith tries to take one of Hollywood's most cloying genres, the "cute kid" movie, and make it hip, but he isn't up to the job.

The end result is an unpalatable mix of syrup and salt that highlights all too clearly Smith's shortcomings as writer and director.

Flashes of typically sharp Smith dialog are sandwiched between several layers of Hollywood treacle. A scene where Ollie tells his sleeping daughter how much he misses her mother is only the worst of several mawkish, clichéd, and overlong dramatic sequences.

Even a "brief" cameo from Will Smith drags on interminably.

It would also take a more talented and sympathetic actor than Ben Affleck to make something of the Ollie Trinke role.

Best suited to playing some sort of asshole, Affleck is comfortable enough with Trinke's high-flying Manhattan past but lacks the depth to make Ollie's transition to likeable New Jersey homebody believable.

Similarly, comedian George Carlin may be a funny guy but he isn't actor enough to flesh out the role of Ollie's wise-but-salty father.

Liv Tyler works hard as Ollie's new love interest, but Maya - part saint, part slut - is yet another of Smith's poorly conceived, barely believable female characters.

Jersey Girl is also, at heart, a dishonest film. Smith, indulging in the kind of soul-searching we're only supposed to have discovered post-9/11, tells us that we should turn our back on city life and professional ambition and focus instead on family values. Yet the director himself, currently working on a Fletch sequel and a film version of The Green Hornet, shows no signs of heeding his own message.

What's most frustrating about Jersey Girl, though, are the rare moments when it actually works.

There are a couple of scenes, for instance, where Carlin and his two sidekicks just sit around and shoot the shit, that give a brief glimpse of what Smith does best.

It's irrelevant, idiotic banter but it's a lot more entertaining than most of the rest of the film.

If Jersey Girl is growth, I'll take retarded.

PTV Rating: 1 out of 5

Czech Premiere: Thursday, August 19th, 2004
Czech Title: Táta na plný úvazek ("Full Time Dad")
Runtime: 1 hour, 42 minutes

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