Film Review: ‘Second Act’ Delivers on Expectations

Let’s get a couple of things straight about “Second Act.” First, it’s exactly what you would expect from a light-hearted comedy starring Jennifer Lopez. Second, it’s exactly what you would expect from a light-hearted comedy starring Jennifer Lopez.

Maya (Lopez) works at a store that is a cross between your neighborhood grocery store and the big corporate retailer. She’s in her mid 40’s and vying for a promotion at the store where she has worked for years. The only thing brighter than her future is the smile that comes from her adorably cute boyfriend Trey (Milo Ventimiglia). But when the promotion is a no-go, Maya decides to take her future, pack it in a paper bag at checkout, and GTFO.

Jennifer Lopez and Milo Ventimiglia star in SECOND ACT

Insert hilarious quitting scene here and a job interview that was made possible by her best friend Joan’s (Leah Remini) son – and boom, just like that Lopez finds herself in a fancy new job in the heart of the city.

A new job means a new apartment sans boyfriend, and a few circumstances where Maya is completely in over her head. Or, is she? Soon she finds herself in competition with a younger version of herself – the boss’s daughter. Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens) is the opposite of everything Maya was at her age. Educated, from a stable family, and full of promise. The two spend the majority of the second act of “Second Act” in a full-on cutthroat fight. A plot line you could smell more outright than the popcorn coming from the concession stands. Hudgens is perfectly perfect for this role.

Jennifer Lopez and Vanessa Hudgens star in SECOND ACT.

That said, the predictability does not make the story any less. Not any less heartwarming. Not any less light-hearted. And certainly not any less needed. We could all use some light-hearted belly laughs – sometimes where a storyline sails smoothly across the folds in our brains – we could all use light right now. And that’s what “Second Act” gives to its audience.

Perhaps the brightest and best bit is the chemistry between Lopez and Remini. The two BFF’s are in fact BFF’s in real life. And, boy does it show. There is absolutely nothing manufactured about their closeness and comfort with one another. The two are hands down the best part. Their constant affectionate bickering makes for moments that will leave most women longing for their bestie.

 

Leah Remini and Jennifer Lopez star in SECOND ACT.

And for those who have come to expect dancing from Lopez in a movie, well, you will and won’t be disappointed. To be clear, there is dancing. But, the dance numbers provide both one of the best scenes and the worst scenes in the movie. In one hour and forty minutes, you are treated to two dance numbers. One features a tango, and the other a dance party with the ladies to Salt-n-Pepa. You can decide for yourselves which you think is which.

It’s not hard to see why such a bouncy, cheery movie ended up on the screen. Part of that is due in no small part to the film’s director, Peter Segal. Comedy movie fans will know his name. He’s directed some successful movies that have gotten their fair share of laughs. Segal has called the shots on “Tommy Boy,” “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult,” “Get Smart,” and “The Longest Yard.” Segal is one of the few directors today who can marry funny with serious in a story. He has a talent that few have when it comes to perfectly balancing out those two emotions. His influence is seen here. And in “Second Act,” it’s needed. There is a narrative throughout the movie that provided the sole plot twist. A less experienced director might have spoiled the surprise a lot sooner in the film.

Overall, “Second Act” is exactly what you would expect. Maya kills it at her new job. She gets the fella back, and even get a little addition to her life.

Sometimes getting what you “expect” is exactly what you need.

“Second Act” is distributed by STX Entertainment. It’s scheduled to be released on December 21, 2018.

GRADE: (★★½)

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