Jersey Girl

2 stars


12th September 2004

When was the first time you ever heard Jason Mewes yell the immortal line 'Snoochie Boochies'? Five years ago? Ten? Funny, wasn't it? And that same unmistakable patois continued to be funny down the line, through five whole movies, but each and every time you heard it, the novelty began to wear thinner. Pretty soon, it only raised a smile - even tried and tested dick jokes were no longer belly laugh material. Eventually, you saw someone a good ten years younger than you quoting the same stoner dialogue, and you eventually realised... hey, I've grown up. And you know what? Kevin Smith has grown up too.

Jersey Girl is Kevin Smith trying to mature as a filmmaker. Gone are Jay and Silent Bob. Gone is the Quick Stop. Gone are the Jaws references, the fart jokes and the Cheech and Chong humour. If ever there was a bold move by a director, this is it - alienating your entire core audience by making a movie about the trials and tribulations of parenthood has to go down as either the bravest decision or the stupidest decision of Smith's life. Right from the outset, it's clear that this is a very personal movie - never the most imaginative soul in the industry, it's clear Kevin can only write what he relates to, and seeing as he's become a father in the last few years, it's obvious that what's written comes directly from his own experiences (in the same way that writing about pissed off convenience store clerks came naturally to him for obvious reasons).

It's difficult to judge Jersey Girl on its merits, because it's essentially an extremely formulaic movie, unoriginal, predictable and afraid to tread new ground. At no moment does the movie ever shock or surprise you, and it seems very content to tell a simple story in a simple fashion. However, what it lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in charm, and this is mostly down to leading man Affleck. The Chin has long since proved he's capable of holding a movie together, but he's on particularly fine form here, showing a more sensitive side that complements his incessant mugging that passes for physical comedy - don't forget, it always helps reading words from the pen of Kevin Smith. Still, no matter how well he plays the parent, the first quarter of the movie proves he's always better playing the obnoxious asshole.

Smith also lucked out with the casting of the titular Jersey Girl, namely Raquel Castro, who looks all the world like a seven year-old J-Lo. She's got a toothless grin that's impossible to resist, and her scenes with Daddy Affleck and love interest Liv Tyler are suitably fluffy to the point of vomitus. In fact, that seems to be a running theme throughout the entire movie - walking the well-worn romantic comedy path, but stopping short just before you roll your eyes and stick your fingers down your throat. A particularly sappy ending may have you cringing (all it needs is an ethereal J-Lo smiling down from heaven giving her ex-hubby the thumbs up), but there's genuine heart and soul in the performances from all involved.

So, brave or stupid? It's a difficult call to make. You get the feeling that Kevin Smith only really made this movie to make a point and prove to himself he wasn't a one-trick pony - in that sense, he succeeds. However, what he's achieved isn't particularly impressive, and is only marked above your generic romantic comedies because of some occasional witty dialogue and some familiar New Jersey faces. Jersey Girl can be considered a success then, if only by Smith himself - the rest of us are happy to sit and wait for Kevin to get used to fatherhood and start being a geek again.

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