Though advertised as a romantic comedy, SECOND ACT has the romantic element only as a subplot, which is a good thing as romantic comedy have been such a well-worn genre, audiences can hardly be surprised any more. SECOND ACT, like the title implies, gives the romantic comedy a second angle and a successful one at that, in timing and delivery of the comedy.
Jennifer Lopez begins as a happily settled woman in a relationship. As far as modern America goes, one assumes that she is not married to her man, as he stands up and leaves her before the first third of the film is up. Trey (Milo Ventimiglia) wants children while she wants to pursue her career. Her career is what the film is all about. Maya Vargas (Lopez) is a bright woman who has no limits to her ambition and inventiveness. (Would Lopez ever play a stupid person?) She is unappreciated at work, and quits a Walmart like chain after they bring in someone (Dave Foley) to take the position she was supposed to be given, only because she does not have a degree. So, her best friend’s son makes up a false curriculum vitae giving her gleaming degrees and work experience and lands her a job at a prestigious company under Treat Williams whee she is supposed to come up with a winning ‘green’ product. She encounters lots of obstacles which makes for some of the film’s hilarity.
The film proves that a solid story is key to a good comedy. The story also involves a sentimental element with another worker, Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens) that is played well and not too be too obvious as to choke the audience by tightening the heart strings. In fact the story is absorbing enough to keep the audience so glued to the film that one hardly notices that the film does not contain that many funny parts. That is a good thing as romantic comedies often try too hard.
The film’s best segment has Maya dirty dancing at a party with her obnoxious villainous competitor in the company. But the film also contains missed moments. The romantic fallout of Maya and her partner is predictable and less interesting or funny. It does not help that the actor playing him tries too hard and fails miserably. He seems to be there only for his looks. Treat Williams as Maya’s new boss, Anderson Clarke is a nice treat (pardon the pun!), Williams a good actor in the 70’s but hardly seen on the screen lately.
Lopez also performs the song “Limitless’ composed by Sia.
What do director Peter Segel and Jennifer Lopez have in common? A series of flops. Segel made THE NUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS and 50 FIRST DATES? Lopez made thriller misses like THE CELL, THE BOY NEXT DOOR and at best the rom-com MAID IN MANHATTAN. Surprisingly, together like two negatives making a positive, SECOND ACT is endearing while entertaining, not going into excesses, but dealing out quite often the right mix of funniness and drama. SECOND ACT is one of Lopez and Segel’s better films.