I feel I must preface this entry by declaring my love of all things Kevin Smith. Clerks and Chasing Amy are utter brilliance in film-making, and I even like his cartoons, comic books, and many other endeavors. Very few people can write dialogue as good as Smith (Quentin Tarantino and a handful of others perhaps), and his sense of comic timing is flawless. So when I say that his latest film, Jersey Girl is kind of lame, well, it's nothing personal.
Ben Affleck plays a publicist named Ollie Trinke who loses his wife (J-Lo, go figure) during childbirth, and ends up having to raise his new baby girl, Gertie, all alone. After a PR incident gone terribly wrong at the Hard Rock Cafe, Ollie is fired from his job and has to move back to New Jersey so he can live with his father (Geroge Carlin) while he tries to find new work. From the moment he meets a new potential love interest (Liv Tyler), the movie forges ahead in a completely predictable manner right up to the cheesy ending you can see a mile away.
Affleck is passable as Trinke (but falls short of his work in Chasing Amy and Bounce) and newcomer Raquel Castro stands out with a terrific performance as young Gertie. The rest of the cast seems to do the best they can in background roles that are pretty one-dimensional... but the problem is never with the acting, it's the writing.
You can definitely see Kevin Smith touches from time to time, but it seems watered down from what I've come to expect. What's really bad though is his tendency to go for stupid jokes to fill in space that greatly distract from the overall story. The aforementioned incident at the Hard Rock Cafe starts out when Ollie's father refuses to watch baby Gertie and so Ollie has to take her to the event (apparently, he's never heard of a babysitter). Then it's time for the same jokes we've seen a million times: Baby poop smells bad. New dad doesn't know how to change a diaper. Baby powder goes flying (after dumping half a bottle on the kid... har dee har har). It's not funny, it's stupid and tired and Kevin Smith is so much better than this.
So, if you want to see a light comedy flick, you could certainly do worse than Jersey Girl (which is to say that you could do much, much better as well). About the only thing highly recommended on the DVD is a selection of Kevin Smith's Roadside Attractions from The Tonight Show so, even if you hate the film, a rental won't be a total loss.