It’s not perfect—or very good, even—but Jennifer Lopez carries an often earnest film with her charm and star power, turning “Second Act” into a decent comfort-food watch.
By Kelvin Kantharaj Vincent on December 21, 2018

Jennifer Lopez (“Out of Sight,” 1998) co-produces and stars in director Peter Segal’s “Second Act,” which co-stars Vanessa Hudgens (“Sucker Punch,” 2011), Milo Ventimiglia (“Creed II,” 2018), and Leah Remini (“Old School,” 2003). In the film, Maya (Lopez) is an assistant big box store manager stuck with her employers at the Value Shop for fifteen years. 

Her dreams of being promoted to manager are dashed when she’s passed up in favor of someone else with an MBA. Desperate, she “spruces” up her experience by reinventing her professional history and gets hired by one of the Value Shop’s suppliers—a large cosmetics company. Having finally bagged the job of her dreams, she’ll have a bumpy road ahead when—through her attempts to keep her lie from betraying her—she inadvertently opens up some doors she thought were locked away for good.

Lopez returns to live-action fiction features after the crime drama “Lila & Eve” (2015), which opened to mixed critical reception, and while “Second Act” is as cliche and contrived as it goes, her sheer star power has the potential not just to coast viewers through its many derivative narrative threads, but also indulge in its old-school charm. 

Second Act
“OMG babe this is so… us! Geddit? ‘Cause This Is U– I’ll just head out.” // (L-R) Jennifer Lopez and Milo Ventimiglia in a still from Peter Segal’s Second Act, a Nuyorican Productions, STXFilms, and H. Brothers film.

The “Enough” (2002) star infuses her character with unprecedented warmth and kindness that you feel instantly drawn to her as a person, and—as the movie progresses—root for her to the point that you want only good things to happen to her. Any setbacks Maya suffers, viewers suffer with her. 

Lopez is supported by excellent turns from Remini and Ventimiglia, perfect as her best friend Joan and her boyfriend Trey, respectively. The cast brings their best foot forward in a film with a narrative that’s otherwise a bit too formulaic for its own good. If the premise of someone lying through their teeth to get her golden ticket isn’t outlandish enough, subplots involving Maya’s history of giving up her kid for adoption as a teenager and her corporate rivalry with Zoe (Hudgens) make for enough of a red-flag situation.

Despite these pitfalls, “Second Act” works because the narrative feels earnest enough for you to forget about its issues—to an extent—and the comedy is often on point. There’s good comfort-food viewing potential in there, and if that appeals to you, Segal’s (“50 First Dates,” 2004) newest rom-com is worth the price you pay for a ticket. All said and done, if you can let the snags go, it’s only because of Lopez and her magnetic presence as Maya.