A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Second Act is a workplace comedy about a woman named Maya (Jennifer Lopez) who uses a fake resume to land her dream job. It aims to show the value of "street smarts vs. book smarts," as well as the value of female friendship. While it would seem like the moral of the story should be "don't lie," all of Maya's dreams do eventually come true as a result of the fibs, which could imply to kids that lying is a winning strategy. Maya's best friend's non-stop potty mouth -- which is copied by her young son -- is played for humor, so there's lots of swearing (including "s--t," one use of "f--k," and more), but the language eventually has consequences. The friend also makes sexual jokes, and Maya and her long-term boyfriend flirt and shower together (bare shoulders and a man's chest are shown). Characters kiss, sex is implied, there's cleavage on display, and characters discuss the concept of sexual fetishes. Many real brands are on display, both visually and verbally, particularly high-end skincare products. The movie has a significant adoption storyline about finding a birth mother; it doesn't portray an instant connection, but rather one that flourishes into a near-BFF relationship.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In SECOND ACT, Jennifer Lopez plays Maya, a 43-year-old woman who's unsatisfied with her life and dead-end job at a discount store. When Maya makes a birthday wish for a better job, a friend creates a fake persona, resume, and Facebook profile for Maya, which lands her a high-powered position. But lying on her resume isn't the only secret Maya is hiding. When the CEO's daughter (Vanessa Hudgens) challenges Maya to a corporate competition, the stakes for Maya become sky high, and Maya has to prove her worth before her fraud is discovered.
Is it any good?
This comedy is a chick flick in all the right ways: It's about the power of female relationships. It's the rare film in which women get most of the juicy roles, and the actresses are a great ensemble. First, let's just say that Lopez is the Bath and Body Works candle of comedy: Whatever chaos may be surrounding her character, Maya, she emits a soft, pleasant glow that enhances the aroma of the entire picture, giving viewers a boost of happiness. Lopez is so charming that any problems with the script (and there are a few) dissolve in her aura -- it works well enough, it's funny, she's funny, and so is everyone else. Lopez's real-life best friend, Leah Remini, functions in a similar role here, stealing the show as Joan, a no-holds-barred version of the wisecracking character she established on King of Queens. The co-stars/friends bounce off each other like a Williams sisters tennis match: They share a sizzling rapport that captivates. Annaleigh Ashford impresses as a two-faced corporate development executive, delivering every line as if she's so put upon that the audience both relates to and hates her at the same time. Charlyne Yi is deadpan hysterical as an assistant with a fear of heights who works in an all-glass high-rise. And Vanessa Hudgens convincingly plays a sharp, silver-spoon young company president who earned her seat at the executive table despite being the boss' daughter.
The behind-the-camera talent delivers, too. Director Peter Segal (50 First Dates) doesn't miss a comedic beat, Sex and the City/The Devil Wears Prada costume designer Patricia Field provides ample wardrobe eye candy to drool over, and La La Land choreographer Mandy Moore creates a memorable dance sequence that we'll likely see in clip montages for years to come. The Bucket List screenwriter Justin Zackman and Lopez's long-time producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas wrote a sweet and touching story that's about much more than it lets on and is delivered with such heart and hilarity that the logic holes evaporate. The film is just like Maya: It's imperfect but so darn affable that viewers won't care.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the potential consequences of faking a resume or making up experiences when applying for a job or opportunity the way Maya does in Second Act. Do you think she's less dishonest because she doesn't correct a lie told on her behalf? Do you think Maya has integrity at the beginning of the film?
What do you think about the frequent swearing among the adult characters -- and how Joan's young son picks it up? Not many movies show that cursing has consequences, but this one does; do you think the punishment Joan's son receives is realistic?
A storyline includes a character's search for a birth mother. Have you ever thought about looking for someone you haven't seen in a long time or have never met but has a connection to your family? Could there be a negative outcome?
The film's mantra is "the only thing stopping you is you." How is that demonstrated in the film? How do you think that people get in their own way in real life?
Maya lives with her long-term boyfriend, Trey. Parents, talk to your kids about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
- In theaters: December 21, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: March 26, 2019
- Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Milo Ventimiglia, Vanessa Hudgens
- Director: Peter Segal
- Studio: STX Entertainment
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship, Holidays
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some crude sexual references, and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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