This may be an unpopular opinion but I think Jennifer Lopez is a good actress. There, I said it!
Now, i’m certainly not defending some of her career choices but the majority of her filmography is layered with such fluff that it’s often difficult to note her talent through the less-than-stellar production she finds herself in. Sure there’s the constant diva rumours too (although she has informed us that despite her rocks, she’s still, she’s still Jenny from the Block) but I find her quite a charming presence on screen, and Second Act is a fine, if predictable return to form for the starlet who deserves better but commits wholly nonetheless to the material at hand.
Playing out almost like an alternate version of her 2002 success Maid In Manhattan, where her chambermaid Marisa was mistaken for a socialite of sorts and managed to nab suave politician Ralph Fiennes in the process, Second Act is one of those “believe in yourself” tales that hopes to drive home the importance of one’s own self-worth, and it’s only our fear that limits us from reaching our full potential.
Full potential for Lopez’s character, Maya, is reached unexpectedly when a little meddling from the tech-savy son of her smart-mouthed bestie (an enjoyable Leah Remini) results in her landing a job at a top Manhattan cosmetics company; he embellishes her resume to include a Harvard graduation, climbs to the top of Kilimanjaro, and photo-ops with the Obamas – a far cry from her modest reality. The lie gets her through the door but her own quick thinking gets her the job, and soon Maya’s made for Manhattan as she undergoes a typical makeover (it isn’t overly hard to make Lopez look enviably glamorous), securing a penthouse apartment and the interest of her boss (Treat Williams) in the process; thankfully though, his interest remains purely professional as the Justin Zackham/Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas-penned script avoids the usual tropes of making his character more lecherous than need be.
The introduction of Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens), Maya’s boss’s daughter, as well as her main competitor at the company, gives the film both an expected surge of hiss and heart as the story weaves in some emotional B-plot strands, and it occasionally feels all a little too saccharine for its own good, but such is the allure of Lopez that she makes it work; Second Act ultimately works best though when it’s going for the situational comedy approach, such as a genuinely amusing sequence involving Maya having to translate Mandarin to new potential clients via the earpiece assistance of a Chinese veterinarian who’s examining a dog’s rectum at the same time.
Fans of Lopez and this type of makeover comedy are sure to respond positively to Peter Segal’s amusing, if cautious film that stretches credibility at the best of times, but can’t be faulted for how earnest it wears its heart on its sleeve.