For a couple of movies now, the words “starring Jennifer Lopez” have heralded little more than low-aspiration, risk-immune star vehicles. Yet there’s something impressive about the way this Teflon diva transcends even her most egregious missteps: Trigger-happy ex-boyfriend aside, she’s managed to come away from potentially career-stalling nonsense like The Cell with her image intact, to say nothing of her winningly brassy/bashful demeanor. If her oeuvre doesn’t amount to more than cinematic cotton candy, at least she has the sense not to bite off more than she can chew. (Quick, somebody give Uma Thurman her cell number.)
For better and worse, the latest Jenflick doesn’t stray far from the established formula. Not quite the Sixth Sense-esque New Age twisteroo it teasingly begins as (and its TV ads fraudulently promise), Angel Eyes is a tearjerking romantic confection that, thanks to a reliance on unrestrained psychobabble and melodramatic one-upmanship, is only partially digestible.
J. Lo plays Sharon Pogue, a tough-talking Chicago cop who is estranged from her dysfunctional family and, like the actress’s character in The Wedding Planner, essentially friendless. (In Hollywood, at least, social ineptitude is still a reliable indicator of emotional depth.) Sharon is saved during a shootout by mysterious manchild Catch (Jim Caviezel) and the two are soon smitten. Catch, who lives in a seedy if spacious dive, won’t discuss his past, while Sharon comes to grips with hers: She once arrested her wife-beating dad, who now refuses to speak to her. The lovebirds drift apart once Sharon discovers Catch’s true identity; without giving anything away—though you’re likely to figure it out in the film’s transparent prologue—they’ve met before. After facing their individual demons, however, the two reunite at a celebration for Sharon’s parents, where the ridiculously squandered Sonia Braga, as Mom, is given little to say besides “We’re running out of chicken; nobody’s eating the ham.”
There’s plenty of the latter dish to go around: Militantly nondescript director Luis Mandoki gives every character in Angel Eyes at least one Big Moment, from Sharon’s touchy-feely work partner Robby (played with refreshing reserve by Terrence Howard) to warm-and-wise shut-in Elanora (Shirley Knight, happily cast as a nonhysteric for a change). Jen’n’Jim get their chance to chew the scenery, too, and Caviezel—who has seemed a bit lost since The Thin Red Line—manages to be quietly affecting even when forced to recite the movie’s most faux-cathartic claptrap. For her part, Lopez is more relaxed onscreen than she’s been in a while, and she and Caviezel look stunning together; I thought I’d need to be revived after their skivvies-clad woodland romp.
Still, you have to wonder how many more movies J. Lo can support as a petulant, needy single professional whose life is transformed by the companionship of a man—or why, at this point, she would want to. Our Jennifer’s old enough by now to know that gorging on the same treat over and over is never satisfying for long.