Second Act Can’t Overcome Cliches

Jennifer Lopez and Vanessa Hudgens star in SECOND ACT. Photo Credit: Barry Wetcher.

Second Act has some promising moments but the comedy starring Jennifer Lopez falls into cliche-filled traps that are otherwise disappointing.

Ozone Park Value Shop assistant manager Maya Vargas (Jennifer Lopez) enters her 43rd year of life by being passed over for a promotion.  It doesn’t matter how many innovative ideas she has because she does’t have the required college degree.  Does one need the necessary degree when their own record shows that they can do the job?  That’s a question the film wants us to ask in a way.  Maya’s baseball coach boyfriend, Trey (Milo Ventimiglia), and best friend Joan (Leah Remini) try to do what they can but their efforts aren’t enough.

Maya soon gets a surprising call from Franklin & Clarke as the company requests a job interview.  This call comes as a surprise to her and the interview even more so.  This is because the credentials that CEO Anderson Clark (Treat Williams) are foreign to Maya.  Even though Clark’s daughter Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens) seemingly destroys any chance of Maya getting the job, Maya some how gets hired as a consultant.  Maya eventually learns than Joan’s son, Dilly (Dalton Harrod), fudged her resume and created an online profile that doesn’t come close to reality.

From day one, Maya is pitted against Zoe.  May has acrophobic assistant Ariana (Charlyne Yi) and cat food guy Chase (Alan Aisenberg) on her side.  There’s some comedy that arises from the rivalry between development executives Hildy Ostrander (Annaleigh Ashford) and Ron Ebsen (Freddie Stroma).  The acrophobic jokes honestly get overdone but the script takes a pointed shot at the the door in Titanic not having room for Jack.

At some point, the truth is going to come out.  It’s not a matter of if but when.  This is how it always works in these films.  Just about 100 percent of the time, there people that are always going to be crushed.  The film unfortunately can’t escape cliche moments that make other cliche moments all the more unbearable.  Listen, I come from comedy.  I have no shame in admitting that there were moments that I laughed.  Some harder than others.  This isn’t the problem here.  It’s all the moments that I wrote down WHY and SERIOUSLY in my notes.

To discuss the film’s plot would give away a lot of spoilers but simply put, it tugs at our emotions.  That the film does so much tugging, it’s becomes disappointing when it starts falling into these traps.  Not even ten minutes into the film, I would never expect that I would jot down WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BOYFRIEND in my notes but I did.  I mean, this is a guy who appears to be very important and yet he’s gone without as much of a trace?!?

I can’t even get into second act complaints without giving the film away.  Let’s just say that there are film cliches and then there are FILM CLICHES.  This film is embarrassingly guilty of the latter.  It’s during this act that there is so much tugging and pulling at our emotions that it’s beyond crazy.  The sad thing?  The synopsis makes no reference to what happens so it’s very much a surprise.  It’s not that what happens is so surprising but when it does, it become super obvious.

Even in thinking about how we review comedy, Second Act is simply unable to overcome all the film tropes that have been done to death.

DIRECTOR:  Peter Segal
SCREENWRITERS:  Justin Zackham & Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas
CAST:  Jennifer Lopez, Leah Remini, Vanessa Hudgens, Annaleigh Ashford, Charlyne Li, with Treat Williams and Milo Ventimiglia

STXfilms opens Second Act in theaters on December 21, 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.