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    Jersey Girl
    Stars:Ben Affleck, Raquel Castro, George Carlin

    Can it be? Is Kevin Smith all growed up? I'm just as surprised as you are.

    I knew he was making a movie named Jersey Girl; I followed the progress on his website (intentionally avoiding tidbits which would spoil the movie for me), and read how he said it was his best work ever. I consider myself a fan of Smith's work, both in his movies, and his periodic Roadside Attractions short features on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. My wife and I just about died laughing while watching the DVD set An Evening with Kevin Smith. I was watching the trailers leading up to the movie 50 First Dates (an excellent movie which I should have reviewed), and was stunned that the trailer I was watching was, in fact Jersey Girl. Guess I didn't know as much about Kevin Smith as I thought I did.

    I probably wouldn't have seen Jersey Girl at all, much less in theaters, were it not a Kevin Smith film. The trailer wasn't anything special, and the clips that circulated the talk show circuit were, well, uninspired. But my wife and I had faith, and stepped up to the ticket counter on its opening weekend (if nothing else, to help the box office gross against other big openers such as The Ladykillers and Scooby Doo 2).

    Until this point, I was used to having Kevin Smith movies elicit the following reactions: laughter, moderate shock, and laughter. I was caught off-guard by the level of emotion in Jersey Girl, and not just the fact that there, you know, is some. Ben Affleck gives the best performance I've seen from him, and little Raquel Castro looks to have a bright career in front of her. Most child actors are just annoying. Some are spectacularly painful to watch (while the grown-up Darth Vader could make people choke and gag through his years of experience with the Dark Side of the Foce, young Anakin Skywalker could accomplish the same thing just by saying “Yippee!”). Not Castro, though. She played the part very, very well, though perhaps the character she played was too mature for her age. I was surprised by Liv Tyler's performance, as I found her rather bland in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. George Carlin was pretty good in his role, and I loved Mike Starr and (the underrated) Stephen Root in their supporting roles.

    The big flaw in Jersey Girl, though, is in its adoption of the tired "chick flick" formula: build-up, collapse, epiphany, chase scene, happy resolution. I expected more originality than that.

    So, are we witnessing a new, more mature phase in Kevin Smith's career, one with feeling and heart? Hard to say. I somehow doubt it. He learned how to move the camera more and break up the dialog a bit, but there were parts of Jersey Girl that were distinctly Smith. I look forward to seeing more of his work, and I'll always give him the benefit of the doubt, and be in the theater on opening weekend, ticket in hand.

    Comments? E-mail movies@aldebaran.net