The Ladykillers.

Starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Liv Tyler. Directed by Kevin Smith.
Running Time: 102 mins.
Has Kevin Smith undergone a transformation or, even, a conversion? Well, no. Those who are afraid that his moving into romantic comedy and family drama may have altered his perspective on life (well, it has, really) will be reassured by the constant bodily function jokes, sexual references and an underlying tone of irreverence. Matt Damon and Jason Lee have a satirical scene. However, audiences will not have seen so many statues of Mary and cribs in a film for a long time. Kevin Smith is still highlighting Catholicism. That said, a review needs to focus on the romance and the family.

Kevin Smith has become a father in real life. This seems pretty obvious while watching the film. He is positively doting on the little girl, Gertie, in the film. He is also looking at the responsibilities of parents, especially fathers. (At the end, apart from the first credit to God whom Smit acknowledges as still interested in him, the dedication is to his own father, recently deceased.)

After Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, many critics hoped that these would be the last of his 'adolescent joke' films. They wanted him, even urged him, to grow up. Now that he has changed tack in themes, they decry his selling out to Hollywood (at least to Miramax) and his wearing his heart on his sleeve.

This is certainly a romantic film. Ben Affleck (a Smith regular who responds better to Smith's direction than to any other director) falls in love with Jennifer Lopez (in a rather self-effacing brief performance) who dies in childbirth. His father, George Carlin, a New Jersey council worker, takes care of the baby but urges his son to do his share. This becomes even harder when he bad mouthes Will Smith (who later turns up with a family-oriented little homily) and loses his job. There are some really tender scenes between Affleck and his daughter (which hard-nosed critics - probably more hard-hearted - loathed) which will appeal to parents.

Into their lives comes a vivacious student who works at the local video store. She is played very nicely by Liv Tyler - and the romance is not too obvious. Raquel Castro as the young Gertie holds her own with the adult cast - but she is quite precocious.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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