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Jersey Girl (2004)

Reviewed By Elaine Perrone
Posted 07/22/04 23:17:37

"Sweeney Todd like you've never seen it!"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Yes, it's a far-from-unpredictable rom-com starring Ben Affleck, featuring J-Lo (although she's only in it for, like, 15 minutes), and centering around a precocious child (Raquel Castro) who Melts Hearts and Changes Lives.

Even so, Kevin Smith manages to surprise and delight with this witty script that pokes great fun at such institutions as Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, Dirty Dancing, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire and turns Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd into a rollicking elementary school production. (To the utter merriment of this raised-Catholic, by the way, the parochial school is named St. Maria Goretti Elementary. Thank you, Kevin!)

Affleck plays Ollie Trinke, a high-powered music publicist at the top of his game in New York. When his wife Gertrude (Lopez) dies in childbirth, Ollie takes his newborn daughter Gertie to his father's home in New Jersey, expecting that his dad (George Carlin) will bail him out in the child-rearing department. Dad has other ideas, though, and in a stressful moment Ollie opens his potty-mouth once too often, bringing his lucrative career to a screeching halt.

Seven years later, still living with his father and young daughter Gertie (Castro) in New Jersey, but yearning to resurrect his fast-track life in Manhattan, things begin to change for Ollie in the romance department when he meets Maya (Liv Tyler), a graduate student who works in the local video store.

Before Jersey Girl, I couldn't have imagined using the words "Ben Affleck" and "likeable" in the same sentence...but Who Knew?. He's thoroughly engaging here in his transformation from Type-A asshole to doting dad, priorities brought around by a chance meeting with Will Smith, about whom a misplaced comment derailed his career in the first place.

High art it ain't, but great fun it is. With standout performances by lovely Liv Tyler, the always-wonderful George Carlin, and young Raquel Castro, who is a charmer; hugely entertaining cameos by Jason Lee, Matt Damon, and Will Smith; and camera work by a master, Vilmos Zsigmond, that is truly a Valentine to New York in September, this is an effort well-worth your trip to Jersey!

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