Jersey Girl 1.0 stars

We've been through something like this before with Kevin Smith. It went by the name of Chasing Amy, and Ben Affleck was again Smith's on-screen stand-in as a Responsible Adult. Here those responsibilities extend to the filial and the parental, but only briefly the marital. (The sole time and place where Jennifer Lopez was destined to be wed to Ben Affleck, before her expedient -- and symbolic -- death in childbirth.) Smith, it goes without saying, has a perfect right to a sappy mood on occasion, but his right is not an excuse for the routineness, the staleness, the secondhandedness, the sitcomminess of the treatment. There are touches of tartness spaced throughout the goo (two kids showing one another their privates), and the running gags to do with Will Smith (a bit of Back to the Future hindsight ca. 1994: "Like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is ever going to have a movie career!") yield a satisfying payoff in the actor's as-himself cameo appearance. But ultimately the best fun in the movie -- a straight-priorities movie, a heart-on-the-sleeve movie, a lose-the-cool movie -- is in imagining how disappointed in him the filmmaker's hardcore loyalists are going to be. His nonloyalists and his active adversaries, on the other hand, are apt, even more, to be taken aback by his display of taste in employing one of our very finest cinematographers, Vilmos Zsigmond. Not just taken aback, but torn in two between the outward beauty and the sludge underneath. With Liv Tyler, George Carlin, Raquel Castro, Jason Biggs. 2004.

Duncan Shepherd

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