Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Vanessa Hudgens, Leah Remini, Annaleigh Ashford
Director: Peter Segal
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Second Act is a comedy in the vein of Working Girl and Maid In Manhattan. Jennifer Lopez stars as Maya, a 40-year-old woman struggling with frustrations from unfulfilled dreams. Until, that is, she gets the chance to prove to Madison Avenue that street smarts are as valuable as book smarts, and that it is never too late for a Second Act.
In a season full of movies that will go down as some of the most memorable in recent years, sometimes it is easy to see which movies are shooting for glory and which ones are here just to make a quick buck. In the case of Second Act it is very obvious that this is in the category of the latter. While it is perfectly fine to make a mediocre comedy that attracts predominantly women viewers, that does not give Second Act a free pass to do nothing special or exciting with its premise. While the film is for the most part pretty funny and never was there a point where I felt the film was poorly made, you know exactly what this movie will be from start to finish and the film makes very little attempt to deviate from this track.
The film follows Maya Vargas (Lopez), an intelligent woman who works at a retail store and has a tough time advancing due to her not having a college degree. When her godson makes a fake resume and internet presence for her, Maya finds herself working for a huge cosmetics company where the stakes are high and the competition will stop at nothing to take her down. The thing about Second Act is that the narrative is almost identical to any female-led comedy that has come before it. Lead actress struggles with something, finds her way into a great situation thanks partially to luck, alienates her old life in pursuit of her old life, and then everything goes back to normal. The only thing that I had trouble predicting was the ending, which could have gone one of like three ways. I will give the film a little bit of credit for trying to do something with the relationship between Maya and Zoe (Hudgens), but ultimately the decision ended up being strange even if it was kind of original. I never expected to go into movie thinking that teenage pregnancy and adoption would be topics that would be brought up in the 104 minute runtime, but here I am talking about it so I guess I was wrong. At least this topic generates real and genuine conversations even if for the time being, but it just creates a weird tone shift out of nowhere that can be hard to overcome at times. On top of this, maybe to the surprise of no one, the film just lines up way too perfectly at times to make it seem like anything other than a timekiller. For example, the development of the relationship between Maya and Zoe starts seemingly out of nowhere and looks to be just the film’s attempt to get the ball rolling. Outside of that scene, when the film starts to wrap up its third act, they use something convenient that is mentioned very briefly during the first two acts as a way to end the film and send us on our way. At least Second Act has Leah Remini in the cast to give a laugh or two along the way, but ultimately this film feels devoid of any true passion or inspiration.
Overall, not every movie goes out trying to redefine the industry with revolutionary techniques or acting, so you have to judge a film on its intention. In the case of Second Act, it is not bad enough to have a hatred for, but not good enough to care about the characters or plot. There is an audience for this movie, and while I am not a part of that audience, I am fairly confident that they might like it more than I did. While there are certainly far worse options in this genre, we all know at the end of the day that there are better ones too, and those are the ones you should be watching instead of this.
Overall Score: 4.5/10