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Jersey Girl

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I've never been a big fan of writer-director Kevin's Smith in-your-face, shaggy comedies -- they're never as funny as you reckon he reckons they are. But his profane loser fan-boys and their sophomoric sexual obsessions are noticeably absent in Smith's latest -- a family feel-good comedy about a PR flack (Ben Affleck) who moves outta Manhattan to raise his daughter in his ancestral New Jersey. The story may have been informed by Smith's own real-life role as a New Jersey dad, but it's obviously tempered by test marketing and simply succumbs to the genre's conventions without comment. (Is it a hip in-joke when the video-shop scene highlights only movies from Smith's home court of Miramax/Dimension -- or just a new low in crass product placement?) The light plot goes up and down predictably; there are carriage rides in Central Park; Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" plays; and the big worry is: Will dad make it to the school play in time? Smith's characters feel as artificial as any connect-the-cliches Hollywood product, and Affleck is as flat as ever. When a Very Special Mega Star drops in to lay the Very Special Meaning of parenting on Affleck, I was just glad that the Very Special Conclusion was obviously imminent. two cameras

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