Second Act is a quintessential Jlo New York romantic comedy. It adorns itself with every trope of the genre shamelessly which adds a little whimsy to this amiable but clunky piece of fluff.
The endlessly watchable Jennifer Lopez stars as Maya Vargas, a Queens native with talent and ambition to match who’s stuck as an assistant manager at a Value Shop. The film begins with Vargas being passed over for yet another promotion because she doesn’t have the college degree that is evidently required to become a manager. Unbeknownst to our protagonist her godson, a Stanford bound computer wiz, generates a flawless Maya Vargas online complete with a Harvard education. This act of wish fulfillment results in her employment as a consultant at a major product development company.
The movie itself is more than a bit all over the place and there is no attempt to weave it into a coherent finished product. The actors trip over clunky dialogue. There are so many brazen formula plots that it’s hard to know who you’re rooting for. It anticipates all of its big emotional moments before they fully mature which makes them as unfulfilling as an empty calorie.
What is interesting about the plot however is how on the pulse it is for a rom-com. The pivotal relationship is a familial one and not a love interest. It addresses the classism that has come to inhibit the American Dream both subtly and head on. It doesn’t neglect the diversity of New York but seems to make a point with its casting of “the executives”.
All that being said it is a solid 90 minutes of indulgent entertainment. The boundless charms of Jennifer Lopez may not overcome the scripting problems but they certainly make this film watchable. Her trademark wacky comedy has aged as well as she has and her truthful portrayal of astoundingly unrealistic situations makes even obvious jokes funny.
Lopez isn’t afraid to take up space on screen as an actor or character. She holds this trainwreck of a movie together with a grace we have not seen from her in an age. She is supported by a host of well-enough-knowns who bring their own core audience.
Milo Ventimiglia is chronically underused, but it’s good to see him vaulting onto the big screen. Leah Remini hits the comedy a little too hard leaving too much ketchup on the plate but otherwise plays the pushy best friend well. Vanessa does a surprising turn as Lopez’s rival turned supporter, it is, however, Charlyne Yi, as an executive assistant with a fear of heights (and a secret kink), who elevates this film with her own perfectly pitched comedy.