Writer-director Kevin Smith's 2004 dramedy, Jersey Girl, surprised anyone expecting one of Smith's distinctive taboo-snubbing, profane youth comedies. Instead, this is a mainstream and sentimental ode to parenthood, family relationships, and personal growth. There's not much that's fresh in this low-key story of a father, Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck), forced to define himself and learn What's Important after his wife (Jennifer Lopez, cut to nearly a cameo) dies during childbirth. When a public meltdown at a Will Smith press conference destroys his workaholic career as a Manhattan publicist, he moves in, bitter and resentful, with his crusty, hard-drinking father (George Carlin, always welcome) and takes a blue-collar job in his New Jersey hometown. Seven years later, the catalyst for Ollie's midlife growing-up is his precocious daughter, Gertie (Raquel Castro). She's assisted by Maya (Liv Tyler), a collegiate video store clerk determined to cure Ollie's emotional breakage, particularly his seven-year bout of a solo sex life. His moment of truth comes with Gertie's school performance of a scene from Sweeney Todd, though if you've seen any parent comedy in the past ten years, a sense of deja vu is the most powerful emotional response the moment generates. The screenplay speaks from the heart, but it's also pat and gives us no surprises, no creative topspin. For those of us too old for stoner comedy, Jersey Girl is more appealing than Clerks or Mallrats. Nonetheless, it lacks the smart observational-humor edge and often thoughtful boldness and, most frustratingly, the promise of Chasing Amy or Dogma.
Miramax's fine DVD release loads up the goods with the stuff Smith's fans have come to expect from his well-received Special Editions, namely two garrulous commentary tracks in which Smith, Affleck, producer Scott Mosier, and "special guest" Jason "Jay" Mewes aren't shy about working blue while dishing up information and insights into the View Askew filmmaking process. Also here are a "behind the scenes" featurette, Roadside Attractions with Kevin Smith, an on-camera dialogue with Smith and Affleck on their five films together, and text interviews with cast and production staffers.