Jennifer Lopez is someone I’ve just never understood the hype for. She has a good voice and personality, I just never jumped on the train. Second Act is not a film I was looking forward to. The trailer made me throw up in my mouth a little, but I had to give it a fair shot. Could “Second Act” prove me wrong and be an entertaining comedy? To my complete surprise, the answer is absolutely. Second Act is a wonderfully breezy film that doesn’t do anything to risky but pulls off the comedic formula to a tee. It’s not one of the best comedies of the year, but it is certainly satisfying.
Second Act tells the story of a woman named Maya who is a high school dropout that has worked hard for what she wants in her life. At the age of 40 she is the assistant manager at a grocery store wanting a deserved promotion but is denied due to her lack of education and credentials. A friend of hers proceeds to make a fake profile and resume for her where she gets a job at a large corporation at the top. She must then decide if she wants to eventually tell the truth or continue to live this lie. Director Peter Segal knows how to put real emotion in his comedies. He has shown that in previous films such as “Tommy Boy”, “The Nutty Professor”, “Get Smart”, and especially “50 First Dates”. Unlike those films, Second Act is not just going for the laugh, he wants to tell the story instead. He makes you care for these characters and makes them feel like they are the same as you and me. He clearly has a point of view he wants to express and presents it here, even if it might be problematic.
The biggest flaw I have with this film is the mixed message it gives within its themes. Second Act at its core is a story about working hard to get where you want to be in life, but they do it in a confusing way. Maya is struggling because she doesn’t have the education to get the higher up positions, so the film suggests that hard work should overtake an education in the job sector. What is that saying to people watching this film who maybe are looking to go to college? Yes, hard work is important and necessary, but an education is not something to scoff at. To be fair, the film has a character who is very smart but wants to drop out of college to which they tell him not to. The theme however is not one that is presented very clearly and as a result it can hinder that positive message you can tell the film is trying to portray. The film ultimately shows that the education can get you in the door, but the hard work takes you to success. That symbiotic relationship between the two makes this film flow very nicely. There are unnecessary plot points and some things brought up but not ever addressed clearly, but they never are a detriment to your enjoyment.
Now we get to the cast and I feel as if we went back to 2005 and grabbed the biggest stars and they work. Jennifer Lopez is the lead, and this might be my favorite film I have ever seen her in. She was great in “Selena” but her performance here is awesome. She brings an earnest and genuine feeling to her character to where you root for her even though she makes questionable decisions. Leah Remini is also here as the best friend and she makes that part work just as well as most romantic comedy characters in her position do. She has a foul mouth in a PG-13 film which leads to some hilarious moments. Finally, Vanessa Hudgens came out of nowhere and gave such an emotional performance. She is the daughter of the CEO and has a few surprises that really hit you when things get going. I only ever knew her from “High School Musical” but she has really evolved as an actress and become someone to take seriously.
Second Act has to be one of the biggest surprises of 2018 for me. It is cookie-cutter and has some thematic issues, but the story really draws you in and the performances are enjoyable. Never judge a movie based on a trailer, I thought I was in for the stinker of the year, and what I got was a nice early Christmas present.