Second Act movie review: Jennifer Lopez's charming screen presence is wasted in this pedestrian story

Mihir Fadnavis

Jan 11, 2019 11:26:13 IST


It is the early 2000s again – there is a Jennifer Lopez movie out in theaters, which reeks of a pedestrian story and flaccid direction that wastes her charming screen presence. Even in a film that is called Second Act, whose title promises a new turn for the increasingly forgotten star, it seems Lopez just cannot catch a break. Not the ideal movie for a film geek to start the year.

Jennifer Lopez in a still from Second Act. YouTube

Jennifer Lopez in a still from Second Act. YouTube

So here we have Lopez playing Maya, a working class lady pushing 40 and sick of still being a working class lady. Things take a turn when the son of her best friend Joan (Leah Remini) creates a new identity for her, making her a famous, well connected person who has met fancy people like the Obamas. The false identity works in her favour as she lands a job as a marketing honcho in an upscale skin care firm. Things get further complicated when the uptight Vice President lady (Vanessa Hudgens) challenges Maya to show her skills and come up with a new product.

The film is directed by Peter Segal, who has made trashy classics like Nutty Professor 2, some belly flop satires like Get Smart, and even some bottom of the barrel stuff like Adam Sandler movies, so there is reason to expect quality comedy here. But even with such low expectations, Second Act fails to surprise in any way, often resembling a film from the late 90s where escapist comedies with a recognisable face worked. There are not any major conflicts as such, and those looking for a fluffy comedy with a dose of saccharine might just be able to breeze through the film without much effort from the old brain cells. The exchanges between Maya and Joan are passably funny mainly because of the chemistry that Lopez and Remini share, owing to them being close friends off screen.

While there is not anything wrong being an unpretentious goofy film, the problem here is that the film tries to squeeze in a social message about empowerment, but does not carry any nuance. The broad strokes that you see in the film, both visually and story wise, betray the well-to-do white man’s outlook on what a lower middle class immigrant could live like in America, and one does not even have to live in America to see how false the notes are. This delinquent storytelling is further exacerbated when all the serious stuff is immediately followed by goofy stuff like Maya falling over like Chris Farley, as we witness the slapstick clashing with all the manipulative drama and the half-assed sermonising.

There is a ludicrous revelation halfway into the film that attempts to pull the rug under your feet but the following story beats become implausible to unintentionally funny levels. By this point, it is unclear what the film wants to be, whether a satire of corporate culture, or a story of lost and found friendship, or commentary on adoption, or simply a vehicle for Lopez to be back in the game. None of the threads work and Maya’s journey in the ‘big bad world’ of the rich becomes gratingly superficial. The only missing element in this film is Gerard Butler or pre-McConnaissance Matthew McConaughey as the love interest to earn the ultimate humdrum mediocrity badge.

Updated Date: Jan 11, 2019 11:26:13 IST