Jacob Richardson | 12/12/2018
Rambunctious and fun, if unambitious and predictable, Second Act is a pleasant surprise.
Mayas Vargas (Jennifer Lopez) is desperate for a promotion for her 43rd birthday. When she doesn’t get the manager role at her local Value Shop, her best friend Joan (Leah Remini) gets her a job on Madison Avenue, albeit with a heavily falsified resume. Now, she is locked in a competition with rising star Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens) in an effort to show that street smarts are as valuable as book smarts.
Directed by Peter Segal, Second Act plays out pretty much the way that you expect it to. In many respects, that is problematic, because the film not only is somewhat disengaging as it hits every beat you expect it to, but also predictably stumbles into all of the issues you would expect from such a movie. Standard cinematography, frequently underwhelming ‘twists’, some infuriating disagreements between long term partners and a nonsensical uplifting victory for Vargas are all issues that plague this film.
Despite this, however, Second Act is undeniably fun.
Partly, this is because of Lopez, whose upbeat performance sweeps you into an embrace of warmth and joy. It’s coupled with an enjoyable turn from Hudgens, who doesn’t have to hit extremes emotionally in her role, but plays around the centre nicely, oscillating between touches of kids movie villainy, shades of joyous family moments and touching moments of betrayal and reconciliation. Milo Ventimiglia, as a ridiculously popular local sports coach, also makes an impression.
The stand-out, however, is Remini. Remini knows exactly the level of movie that she is in, and plays it for laughs frequently. Regularly, these are full body, cackling laughs that make you forget the shaky plot, the ridiculous tropes and tired cliches.
While it’s a shame that Second Act is so predictable and standard, it’s also great that such a movie can still inspire so much fun and joy in an audience.
Second Act isn’t a good movie. But despite that, you’ll probably have a great time with it.