Film Review: SECOND ACT (USA 2018) ***

Second Act Poster

A big box store worker reinvents her life and her life-story and shows Madison Avenue what street smarts can do.


Peter Segal

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.


Film Review: DOG DAYS (USA 2018)

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Dog Days Poster

Dog Days follows a group of interconnected people in Los Angeles who are brought together by their lovable canine counterparts.


Ken Marino


Elissa Matsueda (screenplay by), Erica Oyama (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »


The logo at the start of the film “Life is better with a dog” implies what director Manrino’s film sets up to prove.  It is not a very subtle message and not a very subtle film too.  DOG DAYS is a family oriented movie about humans and man’s best friend.  Unfortunately the word dog can also be used to describe the movie.  DOG DAYS is sporadically funny at best with a very low joke hit/miss ratio.

The film contains four humans stories – all silly and uninteresting.  The first is a TV host who ends up interviewing Jimmy Johnston a sports star only to end up arguing on set.  The cliché ridden script would mean that the two will fall in love, which they do, and lo and behold, what a surprise – it also turns out that they each own a cute dog.  The next story begins at a Starbucks style coffee shop where a regular customer meets an employee who falls for Mr. Hots, a dog doctor who owns a fabulous car.  The customer, as geeky as they come owns a dog shelter that, yes, any 2-year old can guess is going to have trouble financially.  She helps him out with a fundraiser but is dated by Mr Hots.  A one-year old can guess what happens next – yes, she discovers Hots to be an a-hole and realizes true love might be Mr. Geeky himself.  Then there is the musician who babysits sister’s dog while she is having twins.  The dog is a huge but cute one who changes Mr. Annoying’s life.  My Annoying is not only annoying buy terribly unfunny. The last story involves a sad man who ha substituted the love for his past wife with a dog he has lost due to Pizza boy.  The dog is found and looked after by a couple who adopts a little girl.  

Director Marino clumsily intercuts these stories with weak links.  For example, Johnson’s dog is brought to the clinic owned by Mr. Hots.  The lack of a villain in the story means that each story meanders around with no purpose except to display the cuteness of different dog breeds.

The film has no shortage of cliches.  A girl ditches her not-that-good-looking friend to date Mr. Hots only to find Mr. Hots an idiot and then dates back her not-that-good-looking friend who is actually in love with her. A lost dog found by a family who needs the dog more than the owner is eventually given the dog by the owner and so on.

The human stories are weakly linked to each other like an excuse.  The stories are predictable and unexciting.  No one really cares. 

As if cliches are not enough, director Marino aims to pull at the heart strings with no signs of stopping  A lost dog is re-united with its owner; an owner learns about life lessons from his canine friend. It is as if Marino has discovered that his humour is to working and trying for tears as a last resort.  

Containing more cliches than dog tricks, DOG DAYS makes one wonder who let this one out of the dog house?  This is just a very bad dog of a movie.

Warning!!  Make sure you leave before the closing credits.  There are extra takes of the actors cracking more unfunny jokes that will guarantee to make your skin crawl.  


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