Kevin Smith's overlooked comedy Jersey Girl is streaming on Paramount+.
A little-known comedy gem starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez is currently streaming on Paramount+. Jersey Girl, a 2004 effort from director Kevin Smith, is, according to FlixPatrol, #6 with a bullet on the popular streamer. Here’s why viewers should check it out.
Jersey Girl stars Ben Affleck as Ollie Trinke, a New York City media publicist with a promising career who falls in love with Jennifer Lopez’s Gertrude. When Gertrude–now Ollie’s wife–dies during childbirth, it causes Ollie’s whole life to collapse. Wifeless and jobless, Ollie is forced to take his daughter Gertie and move back to the New Jersey suburb he grew up in.
George Carlin plays Ollie’s father, the grumpy but loveable Bart. Sadly it would be Carlin’s last onscreen role before his death. Liv Tyler and Jason Biggs round out the all-star cast.
Jersey Girl was unfairly maligned when it was released, thanks largely to the public backlash against “Bennifer.” Bennifer was the clever nickname given to Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s whirlwind love affair in the early ’00s. While celebrity couple names like Brangelina are commonplace now, 20 years ago, they were a novelty. A novelty not everyone was on board with.
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were everywhere you looked in the early ’00s. Magazine covers, music videos, and, yes, movies. The pair starred in Gigli–a movie some consider the worst film ever made–the year before Jersey Girl was released.
It was Gigli‘s spectacular dumpster fire that caused Miramax to demand Smith edit most of Jennifer Lopez’s scenes out of Jersey Girl. Smith complied, but the wretched film had left such a bad taste in everyone’s mouth that it didn’t matter. No one showed up for Jersey Girl, fearing Gigli 2, and the movie tanked at the box office.
This is sad because the film is much better than its reputation. Kevin Smith was hot off of his success as one of the ’90s favorite indie directors and looking to do something new. Jersey Girl was different than Smith’s previous films like Clerks and Chasing Amy (which also starred Ben Affleck) and was the director’s chance to step outside his comfort zone.
Jersey Girl was Kevin Smith’s first film set outside the Askewniverse, the movie universe named after Kevin’t production company View Askew. Smith’s previous movies had all been set within the Askewniverse and connected via shared characters like an indie MCU. Two such characters, Jay and Silent Bob, the C-3PO and R2-D2 of the Askewniverse, appeared in every one of Smith’s previous movies like a greek chorus of sorts.
Jersey Girl marked the first time Kevin Smith filmed anything without his human comfort blanket Jason Mewes, although frequent collaborator Ben Affleck was no doubt a serviceable replacement. Jersey Girl was also rated PG-13, another first for the notoriously R-rated director. All that, plus a budget several times larger than he was used to, may have worked against Kevin Smith when it came to making Jersey Girl.
Kevin Smith still managed to churn out a decent film despite being out of his element. The reason, in large part, was the wonderful cast. Ben Affleck and George Carlin brought their A-games, while newcomer Raquel Castro stole every scene she was in as Gertie.
Unfortunately, Ben Affleck and the rest of the Jersey Girl Allstars weren’t enough to sell the film to the masses, and the movie only made $36.1 million worldwide against a $35 million budget. The movie faired slightly better on DVD, gaining a small cult following.
Kevin Smith was so discouraged by Jersey Girl‘s reception that he immediately returned to the Askewniverse for his next movie, Clerks II. Ben Affleck meanwhile fell into a lull in his career, doing mostly forgettable comedies like Surviving Christmas until his breakthrough as a director in 2010 with The Town. Bennifer also imploded around this time.
Thankfully we live in an era of reboots and second chances for dead media. Not only is Bennifer 2.0 in full swing but in 2021, Kevin Smith teased a “Snyder Cut” of Jersey Girl with all the Jennifer Lopez scenes put back in. While the longer cut of the movie has yet to materialize, fans can watch the original Ben Affleck tour-de-force right now on Paramount+.