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Jersey Girl - Preview & US reaction



Preview by: Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None listed

LONG gone are the days when Ben Affleck could be considered safe box office. Not even a reunion with his favourite writer-director, Kevin Smith, appears to have been able to stop the decline, at the moment.

Jersey Girl opened in America to, at best, lukewarm reviews, while audiences tended to stay away, for fear of another Gigli. After all, the film was supposed to have represented the second outing for Hollywood’s dream couple, prior to their much-publicised split, and the turkey that was Gigli.

Aware of such concerns, Smith even reportedly offered to refund film fans who were upset with his movie, although whether he is eating his words has yet to be reported.

What is known is that the film is set in New York and New Jersey, in 1996, as Ollie Trinke (Affleck), a slick music promoter, whose wife (Jennifer Lopez), is about to give birth to their first child, suddenly finds his world turned upside down, after a tragic accident leaves him a widower tasked with raising a child by himself.

As a result, he moves back in with his father (George Carlin), in Jersey, where he meets a flirtatious grad student, in the form of Liv Tyler.

A subplot involving Will Smith also serves to keep a string of Hollywood insider jokes and quick cameos (Matt Damon) running throughout the film, while a school play modeled after ‘Sweeney Todd’ lends itself to some funny theatrical moments.

The film marks a more parent-friendly direction for Smith, who was previously best known for the likes of Chasing Amy and Jay and Silent Bob, but the production notes did warn that foul language abounds.
The consensus among critics, however, is that it is ‘full of cloyingly sentimental cliches’.

 

US reaction

Leading the inevitable round-up of US responses, therefore, is the Washington Post, which wrote that ‘this kind of weepy material works in the hands of melodrama masters like Douglas Sirk or Pedro Almodovar. But here, it's over-the-top and it's just horrible’.

While the New York Observer referred to it as ‘a mess, but forced to carry the rest of this too-saccharine but sometimes amusing film based on the personal experiences of scruffy, offbeat director Kevin Smith, Mr. Affleck has his moments’.

Rolling Stone opined that ‘Affleck is modest and engaging, which keeps the movie out of Gigli territory. But it's close’.

And the New York Times lamented that Kevin Smith has made a movie so false and blatantly icky that it’s the film equivalent of making goo-goo noises and chucking a baby under the chin for 103 minutes’.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, meanwhile, wrote that ‘Smith's story is like a nightmare amalgam of decades of single-dad sitcoms: mawkish, cloying, and essentially bogus’.

On a brighter note, the Boston Globe noted that ‘this is a very good collection of episodes about the weekly compromises that parents make for their kids and the little dreams that children have for themselves’.

While the San Francisco Chronicle felt that ‘Smith is trying to say something heartfelt, even as he's using formulas that are unworthy of him. Thus, Jersey Girl is a step, not a misstep’.

But New York Daily News lamented that ‘Affleck is buried in the cliches of his role, or worse, having to react to the fatuousness of Tyler’, while the Hollywood Reporter stated that ‘Smith stumbles setting up dramatic confrontations and strains credibility a time or two with implausible moments’.

CNN, meanwhile, rounds off this overview fairly neatly, by writing that ‘it's way too tame for Smith's hardcore fans - they'll probably hate every minute of it - and not solid enough to draw new admirers’.

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