Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 13, 2019)
As she nears her 50th birthday, has Jennifer Lopez reached the point where she’s famous mainly for being famous? Probably not, but she’s getting there, as neither her musical nor cinematic careers inspire a lot of success any more.
Case in point: 2018’s Second Act. Lopez’s first wide-release live-action role since 2013’s Boy Next Door, the movie struggled to find an audience amidst the busy Christmas release season.
With a worldwide gross of $72 million versus a miniscule $16 million budget, Act clearly turned a profit. Still, $72 million doesn’t do much to demonstrate Lopez’s ability to draw audiences.
In Act, Maya Vargas (Lopez) works as the assistant manager at a retail shop. After she gets passed over for a deserved promotion due to her lack of formal education, she finds herself at a crossroads.
When her friend Joan’s (Leah Remini) tech-proficient son Dilly (Dalton Harrod) overhears how this educational “glass ceiling” holds back Maya, he spruces up her résumé. This leads Maya to a new corporate life where she uses her street smarts to succeed.
If I wasn’t so darned lazy, I’d look back at Lopez’s filmography to see how often she played a working class character who finds her way into more “sophisticated” society. Probably not as much as I think, but this feels like the kind of role Lopez has done more than a few times.
However many characters of this sort Lopez has played, Act never offers any kind of challenge to her cinematic status quo. A bland, predictable mix of working class feminism, family drama and rom-com, nothing fresh appears here.
Given director Peter Segal’s history, this should come as no surprise. When Segal produces entertaining flicks like 50 First Dates, he tends to succeed due to the appeal of the actors and the material.
As a director, Segal seems wholly ordinary. That means he can’t do much to help a movie, but if everything else doesn’t click, he can harm a flick.
Perhaps “harm” is too strong, as Segal’s general mediocrity makes it difficult for him to active damage a production. However, he appears to lack the ability to elevate material, so if the script or the cast don’t seem invested, he can’t fix the problems.
The biggest problem with Act doesn’t stem from Segal’s lack of ability to soar as a director. Instead, the movie’s main concerns comes from its poor mix of maudlin melodrama and cheesy comedy.
Even a director better than Segal seems unlikely to do much with such an awful script. Any film that uses a profane little kid to churn laughs sits on rocky ground, and nothing about Act compensates for those flaws.
Scenes feel randomly connected, as if the editor threw the footage in a blender and hoped for the best. The movie lurches from sappy sentiment to tacky comedy without any sense of smoothness, and the various domains butt against each other in an awkward way.
Toss in one of the lamest plot twists you’ll ever find and Act flops in virtually all ways. Lopez boasts talent as an actor, but she wastes her skills on junk like this.