By Kim Hughes
Pundits are free to weigh in on the many uncomfortable stereotypes and gaping logic gaps of Second Act but here’s the thing: if you are someone inclined to head to the theatre specifically to see the new Jennifer Lopez rom-com, you will get exactly the movie you hope for. And you will be happy.
Second Act checks all the boxes in what we might indelicately call the frothy chick-flick category. It’s has a love story, a female-friendship angle, a female-rivalry angle, a mother-daughter component, a twinkly cityscape, apartment porn, you-get-‘em-girl empowerment speeches, kooky sight gags and a lab full of cats. Honestly, just add wine and you’ve got a bulletproof Tuesday night.
Lopez is Maya, a heart-of-gold retail worker with a knack for knowing what customers want. Despite her dedication and demonstrated ability, Maya is continually passed over for promotions in favour of knuckleheaded college kids with fancy degrees but negligible street smarts. Dejected despite the support of her witty (but comparatively dowdy) female friends, Maya makes a birthday wish to succeed on her own terms, MBA be damned.
As luck would have it, the brainiac son of Maya’s BFF hears her wish and takes to the internet to construct a glammed-up and completely false CV and Facebook page selling Maya as a peripatetic, philanthropic, multilingual, Ivy League-schooled dynamo. The corporate drones soon come calling. You can imagine what happens next.
Of course, plucky, clever Maya pulls off the charade — with the help of a dreamy new wardrobe and a flattening iron — but at the expense of her true self and her true friends. Along the way she makes peace with her past, shows them who is really boss and teaches the business snobs that you can’t always judge a book by its mismatched shoes and handbags and hoop earrings. Or something like that.
Everyone in this cookie-cutter cast is fine, from Vanessa Hudgens as Lopez’s arrogant office rival to Leah Remini as her profane but earnest pal to Dave Foley as an evil scientist. Lopez is watchable as always; the late, great Joan Rivers nailed it on Fashion Police when she declared that the singer/actress always looks like a movie star, as a movie star should. There’s also a breakout performance from Charlyne Yi as Maya’s nerdy acrophobic (in Manhattan, mwah ha ha!) assistant.
Can you cut Second Act’s narrative logic to ribbons? You bet. Is it a sweet and earnest time-waster from Peter Segal, the director of 50 First Dates? It’s that, too. Go if you like rom-coms. It’s guaranteed no one else will bother anyway.
Second Act. Directed by Peter Segal. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Vanessa Hudgens, Leah Remini, Charlyne Yi, Treat Williams, and Dave Foley. Opens wide December 21.