After defining the slacker movie with the likes of Clerks and Chasing Amy, writer/director Kevin Smith tries to convince us he's all grown up with parenting comedy Jersey Girl. Although the notion of Ben Affeck and Jennifer Lopez together again will strike terror into the hearts of many a moviegoer, their onscreen time together is brief in this sometimes charming but frustratingly hackneyed exploration of the relationship between father and daughter.
Affleck - Smith's ubiquitous man-muse - plays Ollie Trinke, a high-flying PR consultant who relishes his yuppie New York lifestyle. But his GQ world is rocked when his new bride (Jennifer Lopez) falls pregnant, and later dies in childbirth. Struggling to come to terms with his grief, as well as care for baby Gertie (Raquel Castro), he cracks in spectacular style and loses his job.
Forced back to New Jersey to live with his cantankerous father Bart (George Carlin), Ollie puts his career on the backburner. Within a few years his life resembles a cosy 50s sitcom, and he embarks on a new romance with video store clerk Maya (Liv Tyler). His newfound sense of self comes under threat, however, when a neon-lit vision of Armani-clad city slickers, schmoozing in wine bars, beckons from across the Hudson river.
While this ode to family values seems like a departure for Smith, his trademark wisecracking dialogue and wink-wink pop culture references are very much in evidence. It's a good thing too, as the story is weighed down with countless clichés. The worst of these involve Ollie's dilemma over whether to attend a job interview, or Gertie's school play. Gee, what to do...
"SMITH TRIPS INTO DEEP PUDDLES OF SYRUP"
For the most part Smith balances comedy and drama very well, but occasionally trips into deep puddles of syrup, and tends to linger a mite too long on Gertie's googly-eyed gawping. Castro is nonetheless endearing, and Ben Affleck is unusually engaging as the put-upon poppa. Unfortunately, it's not enough to save Jersey Girl from unravelling like a cheap, fluffy sweater.