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Blu-ray Review: Second Act

March 26, 2019

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Maya (Jennifer Lopez) is a woman in her forties who is fed up by the fact that “street smarts” aren’t given as much value as “book smarts.” She dropped out of high school and is now stuck working at a big box grocery store, with nobody else wanting to hire her because she doesn’t have a college or university degree.

But when her godson (Dalton Harrod) puts his hacking skills to good use and makes her a fake online profile and resume under her maiden name, she suddenly turns into a Harvard graduate who served in the Peace Corps, and ends up being brought in for an interview by none other than Anderson Clarke (Treat Williams), the CEO of the New York cosmetics company Franklin & Clarke.

Maya quits her job working at the supermarket and accepts a high-powered position at Franklin & Clarke, where she ends up being pitted against the boss’s daughter Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens), an ambitious young woman who is climbing the ranks at the company, to see who can create the best and most profitable eco-friendly skin cream.

Maya has gained valuable insight into what customers actually look for in their products through her real world experiences as both a consumer and retail worker, and she starts working with her quirky assistant Ariana (Charlyne Yi) and the nerdy, lone researcher Chase (Alan Aisenberg) to develop an organic moisturizing cream, but there are also some unexpected developments along the way.

This is the set-up for Second Act, the latest movie from comedy director Peter Segal, who is best known for films like Tommy Boy, 50 First Dates and Get Smart. There are a lot of ridiculous hijinks that ensue as Maya struggles to keep up the ruse of being an accomplished career woman, but the screenplay by Justin Zackham and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas also makes a pretty major reveal about halfway through that takes the story in a more heartfelt and melodramatic direction. It’s admittedly far-fetched, but this is not to say that the twist doesn’t work because it actually sort of does, as contrived as it may be.

The film also takes on some added layers of interest in the wake of the college admission’s scandal, with rich celebrities getting caught bribing universities to get degrees for their underqualified children. The story works to challenge the idea that you need a degree or piece of paper in order to be qualified for a top job, and on a somewhat deeper level, Second Act also explores how expensive degrees are used as largely arbitrary barriers to keep the underprivileged classes out of higher paid positions.

While Second Act is by no means a great film, and it becomes predictable once it reveals the only real surprise up its sleeve – which some audiences might also see coming from the get-go – the film is also better and more enjoyable than I expected it to be. Lopez does likeable work in the lead, doing a decent job of handling both the comedic and dramatic moments, and she is surrounded by a fine supporting cast. If you’re looking for something lightweight with a positive female empowerment message, then Second Act works as a pleasant and thoroughly watchable diversion.

The Blu-ray also includes the three short featurettes Connections, Empowerment and Friendship, which are all just under a minute long and vaguely explore the film’s different themes.

Second Act is an Elevation Pictures release. It’s 103 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: March 26th, 2019

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