It isn’t “Working Girl” — “Second Act” is more earnest and less funny — but it’s a pleasant enough diversion, helped along immensely by Jennifer Lopez’s warm screen presence and by a first-rate Sassy Best Friend performance by Leah Remini. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
Arriving precisely 30 years after “Working Girl,” the Jennifer Lopez workplace comedy “Second Act” is here to remind us that maybe things haven’t changed that much for working women. Maya Vargas (Lopez) is a hardworking assistant manager of a big-box store in Queens who’s clearly terrific at her job, but she’s bypassed for promotion in favor of an outside suit who knows nothing about the store. The stated reason? Maya, who’s in her early 40s, doesn’t have a college degree; despite years of experience, she’s still seen as a girl from the boroughs, not as executive material.
But, before you can say, “Six thousand dollars? It’s not even leathuh!,” the story changes, and the tone changes. Thanks to Maya’s computer-whiz godson — “I Cinderella’d your ass,” he tells her — she gets a new online profile, complete with Ivy League education. Just like that, a consultancy at a fancy Manhattan consumer-products firm falls into her lap. (The plausibility of this part of the story is, like inexpensive leather, best not examined too closely.) This reunites her with a key person from her past (ditto), causes some issues with her sweetly loyal boyfriend Trey (Milo Ventimiglia), and leads to a fairly predictable story of business-y doings, deceit, exposure and ultimate empowerment.
It isn’t “Working Girl” — “Second Act” is more earnest and less funny — but it’s a pleasant enough diversion, helped along immensely by Lopez’s warm screen presence and by a first-rate Sassy Best Friend performance by Leah Remini. (“You look like Mrs. Doubtfire,” she tells Maya, who’s dressed conservatively for her first day at the new job; somewhere, you can hear Joan Cusack cheering.) By the end, Maya gets her happy ending because she believes in herself and her abilities, no matter what the men in suits are saying. It’s a nice message, but you wonder if the makers of “Working Girl” realized that their story would still bear repeating, three decades later.
★★½ “Second Act,” with Jennifer Lopez, Milo Ventimiglia, Leah Remini, Treat Williams, Vanessa Hudgens. Directed by Peter Segal, from a screenplay by Justin Zackham and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some crude sexual references and language. Opens Dec. 21 at multiple theaters.