Although many went after "Jersey Girl" as a departure for Kevin Smith, one only has to look at "Chasing Amy" for the director's ability to helm material that's a little more dramatic. However, despite some glimpses of the director's edgy humor, "Jersey Girl" is more of a step towards the conventional and predictable. With touches of Smith's humor and some good performances, "Jersey Girl" remains fairly enjoyable, but it's never in doubt where the film is headed.
The film stars Ben Affleck as the unfortunately named Ollie Trinkie, a high-power PR executive in New York City, married to Gertrude (Jennifer Lopez). Gertrude becomes pregnant and tragically, dies during childbirth due to an aneurysm. Ollie, shocked and sadden, takes the child, Gertie (played by Raquel Castro once the child grows up) and, after a disasterous PR moment where he trashes his client, finds himself without his career. Moving back in with his father, Bart (George Carlin), Ollie has to take stock of his life and eventually, realize that he has to focus on taking care of his child. A job comes in the form of working with his dad on the local public works department.
Love comes in the form of adorable, flirty grad student Maya (Liv Tyler), who works in a video store and looks like Liv Tyler. However, things eventually look up - despite his legendarily bad decision that cost him his job years prior, there's the potential of another job in the city - allowing Ollie to potentially go back to the life he thinks he's missed so much all these years. Obviously, "Jersey Girl"'s last quarter has Ollie having to choose which road to take - the old life or his new life with the people who matter to him.
The film's performances are quite good, with Affleck providing a convincing effort as a young, caring father who has to wake up and realize where his priorities are now. Liv Tyler is warm and inviting as Maya, and I would have liked her to have an even bigger role in the film. Castro is excellent in her first role, while George Carlin is excellent as Ollie's father. Other very good supporting performers include Jason Biggs, Stephen Root and even a cameo from a certain actor. Jennifer Lopez is good in her few minutes - most of her footage seems to have been cut.
Overall, "Jersey Girl" manages to work because Smith inserts enough little instances of his humor into the rather sentimental proceedings. It's not too difficult to predict where this is all headed, but Smith handles it well and the performances are good. Maybe it could have gone a little further with the drama and the humor, but it's an enjoyable film.
VIDEO: "Jersey Girl" is presented by Miramax in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is just very average. Sharpness and detail are just satisfactory at best, as the picture often appears on the soft side, although some scenes look slightly more well-defined. Edge enhancement is present dring some scenes, although it's fairly mild. Some fairly noticable instances of pixelation also appear in a few scenes. The print is in fine shape, with no specks or marks. Colors are generally well-rendered, with fine saturation and no smearing. While not terrible, this is a somewhat disappointing presentation.
SOUND: "Jersey Girl" is presented by Miramax in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack is pretty much entirely forward-oriented, with the focus on music and dialogue. Music remains crisp and clear, as does dialogue. There's nothing dynamic or noteworthy about the soundtrack, but it's acceptable for the kind of genre/material this is.
EXTRAS: Note: Smith discusses in the commentaries that another edition of "Jersey Girl" is in the works, likely for next year. There's no details given, aside from that a longer cut will be included. Although the cut has been assembled according to Smith's discussion here, rights issues needed to be worked out and this edition of the DVD was pushed to be released in the time being.
Two commentaries are offered: one with actor Ben Affleck and director Kevin Smith and the other with director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier and guest Jason Mewes. The commentary with Smith and Affleck is one of the funniest and most interesting I've listened to lately, as it rarely focuses on the picture at hand and instead ventures off into various aspects of dealing with the release of a film. Smith and Affleck discuss both the critical response to the movie (with notes on specific critics and members of the press) and the ridiculous amount of press that surrounded the relationship between stars Affleck and Lopez, as well as how that effected the film. They also chat about such topics as opening versus "The Passion of the Christ", the structure of the film, the response to Smith making a more "conventional film" and working with the other actors. There's some good information about the film within, but the commentary is mostly a very interesting and very funny conversation about working in film.
The second commentary is more informative and detailed about the film at hand, talking about the changes in the picture, working on the film, chatting about the cast and additional discussion of the test screening process Smith had to go through (it's a little disappointing to hear that Smith seems to have cut some worthwhile dramatic moments due to a some low-class test screening crowds). Mewes, infamous for passing out on the "Clerks" commentary and acting wild on other tracks, has cleaned up his life and gone through rehab before this commentary was recorded. As a result, his participation is quite a bit more straightforward than Mewes usually is. Although not quite as entertaining as the very enjoyable Affleck/Smith commentary, this is definitely a very close second.
A 27-minute interview with Affleck and Smith is included, with the two chatting about their working relationship. The two discuss their early meetings and working first on "Mallrats", then the other films down the line. Their friendship and playful bickering is once again quite funny and the piece offers some good tidbits, although some of the information has been covered on previous commentaries by the two.
We also get the complete set of "Roadside Attractions" - short featurettes that Smith did that aired on the "Tonight Show". These are very funny and it's nice to have them compiled here.
We also get a series of text interviews, promos for other Miramax titles and the usual Miramax Television "Behind The Scenes" feature for "Jersey Girl".
Final Thoughts: A heartwarming drama with some doses of Smith's style of comedy, "Jersey Girl" could have gone further and tried to be a little less conventional, but overall, it's an enjoyable movie with fine performances. Miramax's DVD edition provides lackluster video quality, decent audio and excellent supplements. Recommended for fans, others may want to try a rental first.