Second Act is at its best when it lets Jennifer Lopez do her thing

Jennifer Lopez uses her street smarts to land—and nail—her dream job on Madison Avenue in this rom-com from the director of Get Smart. Problem is, she was also helped by her friend’s son who modified her Facebook profile with some “alternative facts” about her life.

It’s nothing new or outstanding, critic Amanda Jane Robinson reports, but it is fun and has the best rowing joke ever.

Second Act is a welcome big screen comeback for Jennifer Lopez, even if the story feels a little familiar.

Lopez plays Maya, essentially an alternate version of Maria, her character in 2002’s Maid in Manhattan. Both Maya and Maria are clever, resourceful, working-class women in hoop earrings who end up entangled in mistaken identity fiascos due to makeovers and half-truths told by their misguided, well-meaning friends. When she is refused a promotion at her discount department store job, her best friend’s son overhauls Maya’s online presence with impressive photoshopped pictures featuring the Obamas and Kilimanjaro, landing her a corporate consultancy gig and a corner office at a major cosmetics company based in Manhattan.

The film is at its best when it lets Lopez do her thing, and at its worst when it attempts to garner emotion through an obvious, over-sentimental adoption subplot. Mostly it’s fun, and funny, featuring the best rowing joke in cinematic history — something about a coxswain. Important ideas around class and education inequality are approached in a smart, light manner, and supporting roles from Vanessa Hudgens, Leah Remini, Charlyne Yi, and Milo Ventimiglia are all skillfully cast and well performed.

It makes sense that the film feels a little stuck in the 2000s; it’s directed by Peter Segal, frequent Adam Sandler collaborator and director of 2000s hits 50 First Dates, Get Smart, Anger Management and The Longest Yard.

Second Act is nothing new or outstanding, but it’s a nice watch, and worth it to see Jennifer Lopez on screen again, if only to play the same cautiously ambitious character we’ve seen from her many times before.

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