Five reasons ''Jersey Girl'' is no ''Gigli'' -- Director Kevin Smith makes the case that his Bennifer movie doesn't stink

By Liane Bonin
Updated March 27, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST
Jersey Girl: Peter Sorel

Jersey Girl

  • Movie

After the turkey that was last year’s ”Gigli,” how can we stomach the idea of seeing Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez together on the big screen again? But the romantically doomed duo (whose 18-month-long relationship ended in February) is back in theaters on March 26 with director Kevin Smith’s ”Jersey Girl.” Smith, 33, helpfully explained to what’s different about HIS movie starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. ”It absolutely is a Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez movie,” he explains. ”But it’s the good one.” And that’s not all…

1. THERE’S A KID IN IT Unlike ”Gigli,” which featured a very grown-up female lead in the form of J. Lo, ”Jersey Girl”’s femme fatale is 7-year-old Raquel Castro. Not that this is a sugary kiddie flick, according to Smith. ”You watch a lot of these movies with kids in them, and you want to put the kid through a f—ing wall. Raquel has a real natural delivery.”

Does this mean that Smith is making a permanent move into family fare? ”I think I’ve said everything I have to say about being a father and having kids. But I can see myself in 10 years or so when my kid is doing tons of drugs and f—ing everything under the sun saying, ‘Well, it’s time to write about parenthood again.”’

2. IT’S CLASSIC KEVIN SMITH… SORT OF While ”Gigli” included many a crass conversation about sex, ”Jersey Girl” is squeaky clean in comparison — quite a feat for the guy who directed ”Clerks.” ”There’s a fairly noticeable lack of the profanity that has defined a lot of my movies. But if you take Jay and Silent Bob out of a movie, it becomes 80 percent sanitized without even trying.”

Still, Smith thinks fans of his edgier films won’t be disappointed. ”I’ve never made a movie about kids before, but to me this is not that different from [1997’s] ‘Chasing Amy.’ They’re both comedy-drama mixtures and kind of preoccupied with relationships. We just swapped out the lesbian for a 7-year-old girl.” Too bad ”Gigli” didn’t do the same.

3. BENNIFER’S RELATIONSHIP HAS A TRAGIC END As if it weren’t bad enough that the pair broke up in real life, Jen and Ben are torn apart a scant 20 minutes into ”Jersey Girl,” when J. Lo’s character dies in childbirth . In fact, ”Jersey Girl” audiences will see only a few scenes of happy coupledom before Lopez’s untimely exit.

Smith even decided to cut one of those after their well-publicized real-life breakup. ”When they didn’t get married, I thought, I can’t leave in a shot of these two getting married. I didn’t want to risk the chuckle factor. It would be a distraction so that when she dies 5, 10 minutes later, you’re not going to have the emotional impact. It was just a 12-second shot, not a massive scene.”

4. BEN SINGS! In ”Jersey Girl” Ben Affleck warbles for his daughter’s grammar-school Broadway-inspired production, but it’s not as cutesy-poo as you might think. While the rest of the kids choose songs from ”Cats,” little Gertie (Castro) chooses a track from the men-as-meat musical ”Sweeney Todd.” Smith admits, ”’Sweeney Todd’ was something I was really fascinated by when I was 9. It’s nice to give it a shout-out, because it’s a brilliant piece.”

5. BEN PLAYS A DADDY Instead of the dense Mafia goon he played in ”Gigli,” Affleck portrays a humbled publicist-turned-single dad in this feel-good film. Smith says being a proud pop wasn’t a stretch for Affleck, with whom he’s worked on five films. ”He’s a really good actor when you use him correctly. When I write a character that Ben plays, it’s Ben. He’s a very charming, erudite, funny, warm guy.”

Smith only hopes that audiences will be able to put Bennifer out of their minds while watching the movie. ”The scene where he breaks down after Jennifer dies was really emotionally powerful when we were shooting it. Then they broke up, and I wonder if this plays differently now, with people watching it and thinking, ‘Huh huh, I guess he’s glad she’s dead.”’ C’mon, there’s always room for J. Lo.

Episode Recaps

Jersey Girl

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 103 minutes