If not for the up-to-date smart phones and a few other indications “Second Act” is set in the present day, I would have sworn somebody found a forgotten print of a long-lost Jennifer Lopez comedy from 2002, dusted it off and presented it as a 2018 release.
This movie is more dated than a repeat contestant on “The Bachelor.”
Half the scenes and setups in “Second Act” feel as if they were lifted from previous bouncy and broad comedies about “street smarts vs. book smarts,” and learning lessons about the value of remaining true to yourself, and finding the courage to finally tell the truth in front of the Big Crowd gathered for Your Moment of Triumph, which has been tainted by ALL THE LIES YOU’VE TOLD TO GET HERE.
A partial checklist of overly familiar characters and situations:
• Lopez’ Maya, a high school graduate and hard worker, is a star assistant manager at the Value Shop in Queens — but she’s passed over for the manager position in favor of a man with advanced degrees. Come on! Nobody knows this store and its customers better than Maya. Shouldn’t experience and the personal touch count for something???
• Maya has a dreamy, loving and supportive boyfriend, Trey (Milo Ventimiglia) — but Trey wants kids and Maya doesn’t, and that’s gonna cause a rift in this relationship, I just know it! Darn it. Why won’t Maya commit to having a family?
• Leah Remini plays Joan, the obligatory Wisecracking Best Friend, who is always standing by with a quip or a hug or a sassy comment whenever something happens to Maya.
• After Joan’s son creates a whole new and totally bogus past for Maya, complete with elite education and a long career as an executive, Maya is hired as an extremely well-paid consultant at the Manhattan corporate headquarters of cosmetics giant Franklin & Clarke. She’s given a penthouse apartment that would be worth at least $5 million and a limitless expense account. Geez, what kind of a ship are they running at Franklin & Clarke? Seems a bit excessive for a consultant whose resume they didn’t even bother vetting.
• Vanessa Hudgens plays the CEO’s daughter, Zoe, who sees Maya as a threat and challenges Maya to a competition to see which of them can come up with the best new line of “organic” products. It’s a contest! Cuz that’s exactly how it works with these things.
• We get one of those hackneyed “translation gone wrong scenes,” in which Maya and her bosses meet with a Chinese executive — because of course Maya’s doctored resume claims she speaks Mandarin. Maya wears an earpiece and follows the instructions of a Mandarin-speaking veterinarian who of course is on the job as he tells Maya what to say — and can you imagine how hilarious it would be if she wound up repeating some of the things the vet is actually saying an animal? Crazy!
• The supporting characters include a sniveling, snooty, conniving Brit twit, a nerdy and painfully shy young woman who “shocks” us with her progressive sexual attitudes and a couple of comic-relief, charmingly ditzy customers from the Value Shop who have become close friends with Maya because they spend an inordinate amount of time at the store, which is kind of sad actually.
Maya desperately guards a secret from her past, even though there’s nothing the least bit embarrassing or scandalous about this secret. In arguably the most shamelessly manipulative plot machination of the year, we get a mid-movie “twist” regarding this secret that would embarrass a fill-in writer on a failing daytime soap.
Directed by Peter Segal (veteran of many an Adam Sandler hit), “Second Act” moves along at a breezy pace and features a bounty of “comfort shots,” e.g., the camera zooming over Manhattan, and Lopez looking great as she marches with purpose and fashion or goes for a run as the soundtrack plays the next catchy pop tune, etc.
We get a few laughs, most of them courtesy of Remini. It’s nice to see the wily veteran Treat Williams as the sympathetic CEO of the cosmetics company, who seems to know almost nothing about running a business but nevertheless is a giant in his field. (Eh, why not.) Lopez and Hudgens have a likable dynamic together. And I kinda like the idea of a world in which the assistant baseball coach of a small college team would be interviewed on live TV during the locker-room celebration after the team wins some sort of championship.
But so much of the humor and so many of the situations in “Second Act” feel like warmed-over Second Helpings of a dinner from long ago.
A dinner that wasn’t all that memorable in the first place.
STXfilms presents a film directed by Peter Segal and written by Justin Zackham and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas. Rated PG-13 (for some crude sexual references, and language). Running time: 104 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.