Second Act

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About 40 minutes into this movie, I was laughing during a scene. It had been about the 4th or 5th time I had laughed. My wife looked at me like she wanted to kill me. I said, “What?”

She replied, “You actually think this is funny?”

It’s strange because, this is the type of movie most women are going to adore, and the men will roll their eyes. Actually, I think the men will begrudgingly admit it’s not horrible. Now, that’s not a ringing endorsement. There’s a plot twist in the middle that’s so utterly contrived and ridiculous, and…the 3rd act is just awful. Yet most of the scenes were entertaining and I don’t feel like I wasted a few hours of time I should’ve been out Christmas shopping.

Director Peter Sagal (Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights) should’ve stuck with the Value Shop store J-Lo was working with her girls from the block. They were a lot of fun as supporting players. Now, having her get a high-paying job based on a bogus resume was a fine direction to go. It’s just a shame that once she gets into the place, it gets so cliche. The evil characters are so over-the-top and unbelievable. And you wonder why certain people don’t just tell the boss about the things the bad guy did. Instead, the person working in the lab is relegated to the cat food division and not being invited to swanky company parties.

Regarding the evil people J-Lo has to work with, at least one of them was David Foley (News Radio), from the funniest comedy troupe ever — The Kids in the Hall. It’s just a shame he wasn’t given more to do than just make weird faces.

Sagal also struggles with the dramatic elements of this story, which is a shame, because the comedy was light and breezy and worked.

Leah Remini plays a great best friend with a few good zingers, and they had chemistry together. And just as Vince Vaughn had to worry about cursing around his kid in Old School, she’s often cursing around her child. That was funny at first, but got old quick; at some point you just have to chalk her up as a bad mom. Especially since she’s often hanging out at J-Lo’s new ritzy apartment. Uh…is she hiring a babysitter each night of the week to do this? Oh’s movie logic. The best friend always just shows up (which is why I laughed when they did a bit on this in The Truman Show).

I had to admit that Lopez actually has a great presence on screen. She got award nominations for playing Selena, and she’s in one of my favorite movies of 1998 — Out of Sight (George Clooney). She can play a working-class character convincingly, and that’s important. For example, Halle Berry was okay in Monster’s Ball (well, maybe more than okay; she won the Oscar), but…I just couldn’t help wonder why…a woman that beautiful would be working at a greasy spoon when she could be modeling.

My wife and I were wondering why her boobs were always sticking out. Sometimes it was just cleavage showing. Other times, she was wearing a business outfit, but her breasts still found their way out of the blazer. Not that I’m complaining, just wondering.

The story starts out with Maya Vargas (Lopez) being bummed about a promotion she doesn’t get, when the head honcho (an always welcome Larry Miller) gives it to a less qualified man (simply because he has a college degree). One of the disappointing things is that it reminded me how much I loved The Promotion (John C. Reilly) that dealt with something similar. And with Larry Miller, come on! Give him a few more scenes, and let’s watch J-Lo show him that you don’t mess with a girl from the block, unless you wanna get clocked.

At a “surprise” party for Maya, she makes a wish when she blows out the candle — wishing that street smarts equalled book smarts. Now at that point, I wanted them to go all Big on us. Let her magically switch places with some high powered executive. Wait, on second thought, that’s a horrific idea. Instead, her best friend’s son (who just got into Stanford), sets up a fake website and Facebook account, and that gets the big boss (a well-aged Treat Williams) from a body cream company calling. Luckily, she at least knows a little about the product from selling it at her store. That gets her by the interview, and sets the shenanigans in motion.

There’s a subplot that has Maya dealing with a boyfriend (Milo Ventimiglia of This is Us) she’s had for five years that wants kids. He’s a baseball coach and is obviously great with kids. Yet we have no clue why he has a mustache that…might have looked cool in 1978. Perhaps the filmmakers saw all the love Rami Malek was getting in Bohemian Rhapsody, and they went with it.

Just as the supporting characters were a lot of fun at the box store, they were at the skincare business. The CEO (Williams), who is widowed (and had us worrying about the older man/younger woman thing filmmakers always gross us out with), has a few nice scenes. Vanessa Hudgens is okay as his snotty, entitled daughter, who has it in for the new recruit. But the one that steals the show is comedian/actress Charlyne Yi. She hates heights, and any time she’s going into Maya’s high-rise office, she’s freaking out at all the windows.

It’s a shame the third act is so predictable and so…bad. I thought about all the early scenes and how much fun they were. One of those has the new manager that took Maya’s job, implementing team building exercises. It reminds you of the stuff the clueless Michael Scott did in The Office. I’m still thinking of his “knights of the round table” speech, and the employees not having a clue about a word he’s saying (one wonders what a “legume” is). It was laugh out loud hysterical.

Scenes that involved jokes we’ve heard before (your porn name is the name of your first pet, and the street you lived on). That meant we got to laugh when Remini says she was “Fluffy Valley.”

I ended up wishing this could’ve been made into a great comedy. Look, I’m not expecting Citizen Kane when I see the trailers for a rom-com where Jennifer Lopez is tripping over high heels she’s never worn before, dropping files in the elevator, or whatever they showed in the commercials. Yet when you give us a solid first half, it would be nice if they could finish it. Instead it became a predictable mess, with all the stories wrapping up as sweetly as you’d think they would. And that makes all the contrivances that much more annoying.

I gave it 2 stars out of 5. I was afraid to ask my wife what she would give it, but I think it would be in the negative numbers.


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