The post-Bennifer hype surrounding Jersey Girl, the latest cinematic effort from director Kevin Smith, seemed to ensure a positive reception of the film at the box office.
But on Friday, March 26, the film opened and the critics were unanimous – not even the condensed Jennifer Lopez scenes could save this movie.
The movie begins quite innocently. Inside a school somewhere in New Jersey, a classroom of students have written essays about their families and what their families mean to them. After some very amusing observations from the other children of the class, the audience is introduced to the precocious Gertie Trinke. The seven-year-old girl tells the class about her father, Ollie Trinke, a publicist for a large music company. According to Ollie, life is divided into two parts: New York and New Jersey.
In 1996, while Ollie is a publicist in New York, he meets and falls in love with Gertie’s mom Gertrude, a book-publishing agent. They get married and together they anxiously await the birth of their first child.
Sadly, Gertrude dies during childbirth, throwing Ollie’s world into disarray. Luckily, his father, brilliantly portrayed by comedian George Carlin, helps him get through the death and come to terms with his new role as a father.
Meanwhile, Ollie suddenly loses his job as publicist when he publicly insults pre-mega movie star Will Smith and the media, at an induction ceremony at the Hard Rock Cafe. He is forced to move into his father’s house in New Jersey and take a job as a street cleaner until he can get another job as a publicist.
Seven years later, Ollie is still working as a street cleaner living in his father’s house in New Jersey, while baby Gertie has grown into a beautiful little girl. Ollie still longs to be back in New York with a good publicist job, but he is nevertheless content being the object of his daughter’s affection.
Then he meets Maya, a graduate student working as a video clerk in Ollie and Gertie’s neighborhood video store. Maya is young, intelligent and very open when it comes to conversations about sex and pornographic movies. Naturally, she and Ollie hit it off immediately, and Gertie gains a new female role model.
Despite having a devoted daughter and a cute girlfriend, Ollie still longs for the chance to return to his former career as a publicist in New York.
When the opportunity to get back in the business presents itself, Ollie is forced to choose between the life he used to have in New York and the life he already has in New Jersey.
While comedian George Carlin and newcomer Raquel Castro offer solid performances of their characters, Jersey Girl is still nowhere near as good as Kevin Smith’s past film efforts. But it does get the applause for best use of actor Will Smith.
Although he represents Ollie’s downfall as a publicist, Smith also represents a turning point in Ollie’s life as a father. “I might be here now,” Smith tells Ollie in the waiting room of a major company, “but I’d rather be playing in the dirt with my kids”
Marta Rusek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org