Second Act: Jennifer Lopez is still a star. She deserves better

Review: J-Lo’s chequered screen career continues with this uneven comedy from her own production company

Charlyne Yi, Alan Aisenberg, Jennifer Lopez and Annaleigh Ashford in Second Act.

Film Title: Second Act

Director: Peter Segal

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Leah Remini, Vanessa Hudgens, Treat Williams, Milo Ventimiglia, Charlyne Yi

Genre: Comedy

Running Time: 104 min

Fri, Jan 25, 2019, 05:00

   

Jennifer Lopez is Maya, a hardworking and innovative hypermarket employee who is passed over for promotion because she lacks a college education. Of course, what Maya lacks in book learning and credentials, she makes up for in street smarts and gumption. Fill in the blanks.

When her godson invents a wildly embellished CV – stay tuned for the scene in which her Chinese vet has to feed her business Mandarin through an earpiece – Maya is plucked from the floor of the dollar store and thrust into the go-go corporate world of ill-defined biochemical giant Franklin & Clarke.

Longtime J-Lo watchers may well recognise this plot from Maid in Manhattan, in which Lopez’s charlady poses as an uptown girl, or Jenny from the Block, in which Lopez trumpets her humble origins.

Somehow Lopez and Vanessa Hudgens muster some genuinely moving moments

But Second Act is so much more than a Working Girl knock-off. A silly film that is already cluttered with plots and subplots when we get to the magic tree (yes, there is a magic tree), a hopelessly muddled script by Justin Zackham and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas takes in a family reunion, many gal-pal sessions, a romantic subplot, and a competitive product launch, in which Maya’s band of funny misfits take on the company’s A-listers, as led by Vanessa Hudgens.

No part of Peter Segal’s comedy should work, but somehow Lopez and Hudgens muster some genuinely moving moments. Talented supporting players, including Charlyne Yi and Leah Remini, are required to wring laughs out of makeweight dialogue and situations.

There are some decent ideas buried in the screenplay, not least of which is the prioritising of female bonding over love interest.

Lopez is still a star and no mistake. But not for the first time in her chequered screen career, one wishes she was better served by the material. Especially when that material emerges, like Second Act, through her own production company.