July 18, 2005 -- “Jersey Girl” is a romantic comedy seriously marred by a clunky plot and a couple of characters that are hard to sympathize with. Ben Affleck stars as Ollie Trinke, a public relations man who is devastated when his wife, Gertrude Steiney (played by Jennifer Lopez of “Maid in Manhattan”) dies during childbirth, leaving him to raise his infant daughter alone. Well, not quite alone. Ollie's dad, Bart (George Carlin of “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”) is willing to help some, but balks when Ollie tries to put too much of the load on him. Bart tells Ollie to get a grip, grow up, be a man and be a father. Ollie doesn't listen very well.
Years pass and we catch up with Ollie and his daughter, Gertie (played by the ultra cute Raquel Castro) living contentedly in New Jersey in Bart's house. A public relations disaster has caused Ollie to accept a job with his father in the city street department, but he wants to get back in the P.R. business. Then Ollie meets a pretty young student named Maya (Liv Tyler of “Lord of the Rings”) who wants to interview him for a sex survey she's doing. The two begin a precarious relationship after a very awkward encounter. Ollie wants to move to Manhattan, but neither his daughter nor Maya want to go there. Ollie has to make a decision. What's more important, his career, or his family?
Affleck is great at playing a self-centered jerk, but is far less convincing as a loving father. Because he is such an effective jerk it is tough to believe that Maya would fall for this guy. The screenplay gives her no real reason to be so devoted to him. Far more believable is George Carlin as Ollie's father. He puts up with Ollie because he loves his son, but he refuses to be manipulated. He is frustrated that his son is such a jerk and he tries to convince him to shape up. The real scene stealer is young Raquel Castro, a child actress who seems wise beyond her years. She is not only extremely cute, but she hits every emotional note perfectly. She's a natural.
The film is written and directed by Kevin Smith (“Clerks” and “Dogma”). This film is both more sentimental and conventional than most of Smith's work. In a rambling interview on the DVD of this film called “Talk Soup,” Smith says only half jokingly that he wrote the part of Ollie to match Affleck's personality. If this is true, it would help explain why some people hate Affleck so passionately. For instance, Affleck, and his most successful film, “Pearl Harbor” were singled out for attack by the makers of the film “Team America: World Police.” There was even a song in that movie specifically attacking “Pearl Harbor.” It is like some people just can't stand that “Pearl Harbor” was one of the most popular movies ever made (it ranks in the top 100 box office hits of all time), and that Affleck also has an Academy Award® to his credit (for co-writing the screenplay of “Good Will Hunting”). Affleck has the bad fortune of being young, talented, handsome, wealthy and successful, so he attracts the usual herd of jackals who want to bring him down. They enjoy watching him fail, as he sometimes does in clunkers like “Reindeer Games” and “Gigli.” This film bleeds enough to attract more jackals.
The DVD has a number of extras, including commentary tracks by director Kevin Smith and Ben Affleck, and another commentary track by Smith, producer Scott Mosier and actor Jason Mewes (who has co-starred with Smith in several movies). Other audio tracks include Cantonese and English in Dolby® Digital 5.1. Spanish subtitles are another option on the DVD. The Tonight Show's “Roadside Attractions” with Kevin Smith is included on the DVD along with a Behind-the-scenes documentary. Test interviews with cast and crew are another extra. In short, the DVD is pretty good, but the movie itself is mediocre. The movie rates a C. The DVD, because of all the extra features, rates a B.
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