I still find it hard to believe that this is the work of writer-director Kevin Smith. Since when does he go for such trite and conventional mainstream fare? Where are the lesbians, homicidal angels and foul-mouthed slackers? We do get some references to “coked-out whores” and a creepy school production of Sweeney Todd, but for the most part this is the kind of movie you expect some no-name Hollywood hack to come up with.
The first act is particularly choppy, making a miserable job of setting up Ollie, his wife Gertrude and the great love they supposedly shared. This clumsy highlights reel is further marred by latent Bennifer baggage – Gigli is nowhere near as bad as its reputation, but it’s still distracting to have what looks like Larry Gigli and Ricki now living together in Manhattan. The whole asshole publicist thing is laid on way too thick, as are the sappy music and the endless Fresh Prince jokes that all fall flat (though it does pay off in the end with one of the movie’s best scenes).
Still, the movie does pick up once it gets to Jersey. It’s never as funny as Smith’s previous flicks and it doesn’t achieve the slick feel-goodness of the best Hollywood sentimental comedies, but there are some genuinely amusing and sweet moments. Affleck’s lead performance is shaky at times, but he’s pretty good with the little girl and with Liv Tyler (must be leftover chemistry from the animal cookies scene in Armageddon!).
“Jersey Girl” is corny, predictable and lousily directed, but Kevin Smith still has an original voice that can be faintly heard in there somewhere.