Total Recall: Jennifer Lopez's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Back-Up Plan star.
Twenty years ago, Jennifer Lopez was just another one of the girls getting her swerve on before commercial breaks on Fox's In Living Color. Things sure have changed: Today, Lopez is a certified multimedia mogul, with a successful acting career, platinum CDs, a clothing line, fragrances, and a production company to her credit. It's been a few years since we've seen La Lopez in theaters, but she's back this week with her latest romantic comedy, The Back-Up Plan; to celebrate her return, we decided to take a look back through her filmography and revisit her best-reviewed starring roles. Let's go Total Recall, J. Lo style!
Its 36 percent Tomatometer says it's bad, but if you've ever seen 1997's Anaconda, chances are you think it's so bad it's good -- an opinion shared by more than a few of the critics who reviewed Luis Llosa's proudly trashy tale of a team of documentarians who prowl the Amazon in search of a long-lost native tribe and end up finding a lot more than they bargained for. Starring Lopez as director Terri Flores, Ice Cube as the baddest cameraman ever to enter the jungle, and Jon Voight as a supremely villainous snake hunter, Anaconda blended old-fashioned B-movie thrills with (often risible) CG special effects to produce a campy treat whose box office success defied the overwhelmingly negative reviews. For some scribes, however, Anaconda had priceless comic value, even if it didn't mean to; as Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times put it, the movie is "such a classic combination of feckless dramaturgy and rampant excess that giving way to giggles is the only sane response."
Lopez teamed up with Ralph Fiennes and The Joy Luck Club director Wayne Wang for this 2002 romantic comedy, which told the story of a hotel maid (Lopez) who finds herself swept up in a romance with a politician (Fiennes) even though he -- gasp! -- doesn't know she cleans up after people for a living. Based on a John Hughes story, Maid in Manhattan is the sort of sunny, charming, perfectly critic-proof movie that tends to do very well at the box office in December -- which is just what happened here. Despite largely negative reviews from critics who carped that its predictable plot was beneath its stars' talents, Maid cleaned up to the tune of over $150 million in worldwide grosses. Not all the press was bad, though: Rich Cline of Film Threat conceded to the film's charms when he wrote, "When we catch ourselves sighing at the end, we get mad that we've fallen for this same old formula all over again. But mad in a nice way."
8. Jersey Girl
After the complete disaster that was Gigli, nobody was asking for another Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez movie -- which probably goes a long way toward explaining why 2004's Jersey Girl was dead on arrival before anyone had even seen a frame of film. It's unfortunate, because writer/director Kevin Smith was branching out here, moving outside the "View Askewniverse" for the first time with a sweet story about a single dad (Affleck) and his struggle to square his career ambitions with his obligations to his daughter (Raquel Castro) while falling in love -- maybe -- with a foxy video store clerk (Liv Tyler). As for Lopez? She really isn't in much of the movie, but the shadow of Bennifer loomed large over the production anyway, as well as the stony disbelief of critics who refused to accept Smith's more sentimental side. But for scribes like Jeffrey Overstreet of Looking Closer, the change from Clerks to Jersey Girl was a welcome one: "Even as the critic in me raged against the clichés, I found a big old lump in my throat and blinked back a few tears."
Lopez got one of her early breaks as a "Fly Girl" dancer on Fox's In Living Color, but few of her films have taken advantage of her dancing ability. A notable exception: 2004's Shall We Dance?, which pairs her with Richard Gere in a remake of Mayasaki Suo's Shall We Dansu? Marketed as a romantic comedy, Dance? is really something more -- a portrait of an aimlessly dissatisfied man (Gere) who finds friendship with a dance instructor (Lopez) who helps him rekindle the spark that's been missing from his personal life and his marriage. There's a love story here, but it's really between Gere and Susan Sarandon, who plays his wife. This alone makes Dance? a more thoughtful, mature film than much of what passes through theaters, but for a lot of critics, it couldn't help but compare unfavorably to the original. Still, for others, Dansu's Americanization wasn't necessarily a bad thing; as Jay Boyar of the Orlando Sentinel wrote, "The central idea -- that losing yourself in a small, private world can help you to better engage the larger world -- isn't lost in translation."
6. The Cell
She's chiefly known for romantic comedies, but for awhile around the turn of the century, Lopez made a point of branching out into more diverse fare -- like 2000's The Cell. Nominally speaking, this Tarsem Singh-directed thriller starred Lopez as a groundbreaking child psychologist, but that only scratches at the surface of The Cell's bizarre, nightmarish second act, which plunges viewers -- and Lopez's character -- into the twisted mind of a comatose serial killer (Vincent D'Onofrio). In an effort to locate his next victim before the prison he's left her in fills with water, Lopez enters D'Onofrio's fractured psyche, where she encounters a surreal landscape filled with intense (and often intensely disturbing) visuals. According to a sizable number of critics, Singh's fondness for S&M-inspired eye candy overwhelmed the plot -- but for others, The Cell was an absorbingly disquieting experience. Film Blather's Eugene Novikov was one of the movie's staunchest defenders, calling it "the year's first masterpiece, an insanely ambitious movie that miraculously fulfills every one of its ambitions."