SECOND ACT

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Peter Segal

Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Vanessa Hudgens, Leah Remini, Treat Williams, Charlyne Yi, Dave Foley, Larry Miller, Freddie Stroma, Alan Aisenberg, Milo Ventimiglia, Annaleigh Ashford, Dalton Harrod, Lacretta.

Jennifer Lopez, Alan Aisenberg, Charlyne Yi, and Annaleigh Ashford in Second Act (2018)Maya Vargas (Jennifer Lopez, from Maid In Manhattan, etc) is a 40-year old who has been in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend Trey (Milo Ventimiglia) and works in Value Shop, a big-box retail store. Drawing on her fifteen years of experience and understanding of customer service she has effectively reshaped the store and risen to the position of assistant manager. But then she is overlooked for promotion, passed over in favour of a man with a college education and a degree in marketing but little actual experience in managing staff.

Her best friend Joan (Leah Remini, from tv sitcom The King Of Queens, etc) suggests that Maya quit her job and find something more suitable and satisfying. Joan’s son Dilly (Dalton Harrod), a tech wizard, creates a fake but impressive resume and a Facebook profile for Maya, which results in her landing a consulting job at a prestigious cosmetics company run by CEO Anderson Clarke (Treat Williams, from The Pursuit Of D B Cooper, etc). Maya finds herself in competition with the boss’s hard-nosed and business savvy daughter Zoe (Vaness Hudgens, from High School Musical, etc) to create a truly organic skin care range.

Maya’s past also comes back to haunt her, and a surprising revelation about the daughter she gave up for adoption years ago lead to her changing her life for the better. But it is this second act development of the script that undermines much of the first act and unbalances the film.

Second Act has been written by Justin Zackham (The Bucket List, etc) and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas (the first script from this veteran producer), but this uninspired romantic comedy about a working-class girl making her way through the cut throat environment of an office will remind audiences of superior offerings like Working Girl. The film tries to make a positive statement about female empowerment and the role of women in the workplace and equality, but they cram in plenty of subplots, twists, and populates the material with some quirky and colourful characters that all add spice to the vaguely formulaic plot. There are a couple of laugh out loud scenes, including one where Maya is pretending to speak Mandarin to a Chinese businessman but is getting her translation cues from veterinarian who is giving a physical examination to a dog.

Director Peter Segal (Grudge Match, etc) is a dab hand at light comedies, and he keeps things moving along but the pacing is uneven, and some scenes seem to drag. Swiss born cinematographer Ueli Steigner (The Day After Tomorrow, etc) makes the most of some picturesque New York locations and gives the film a slick and glossy visual style. Veteran costume designer Molly Rogers (Sex And The City, etc) does a good job here in dressing Lopez in some gorgeous creations.

Lopez has plenty of on-screen charisma and has established herself in a string of formulaic romantic comedies, and while her role here perfectly suits her this underdog story ultimately seems a little underdone and doesn’t stretch her talents too much. Remini is a scene stealer who gets a couple of great lines, but she isn’t given much to work with here. Hudgens does what she can with her role, but is often underused. The supporting cast includes Larry Miller as Maya’s smug former boss; comic Dave Foley; Charlyne Yi (from House, etc) as Ariana, Maya’s diminutive assistant who is scared of heights; and Freddie Stroma (from the Harry Potter series) as a jealous co-worker intent on exposing her deception.

★★☆

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