Second Act parents guide

Second Act Parent Guide

The icing on the cake for the audience seemed to be the heart-tugging themes about the importance of family and relationships.

Overall B

Passed over at her big box store job, Maya (Jennifer Lopez) leaps at the chance to take her dream job, even though the offer is based on a fake resume and social media profile. Will success come at too high a price?

Release date December 21, 2018

Violence B
Sexual Content B+
Profanity D
Substance Use B+

Why is Second Act rated PG-13? The MPAA rated Second Act PG-13 for some crude sexual references, and language

Run Time: 103 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

If you’ve seen Disney’s Aladdin you already know the plot of Second Act. The main character creates a false identity to get something he wants. The character achieves his goal only to become aware of the consequences of living a lie. The character is too scared of losing the benefits of the lie to tell the truth. An evil villain gains control of a genie with cosmic powers and wreaks destruction. Well, ditch the evil villain and the genie and you have the basic plot outline of Second Act.

The movie begins with Jennifer Lopez as Maya Vargas, assistant manager of a big box store. Maya is a retail genius who has doubled her store’s revenues relative to other outlets. Despite her undoubted ability, Maya is passed over for promotion in favor of a male candidate (Dan Bucatinsky) whose university degree and “team building skills” trump Maya’s impressive experience. Frustrated and angry, Maya vents that “I just wish we lived in a world where street smarts equaled book smarts.”

Shortly after a birthday wish for better opportunities, Maya receives an invitation from the prestigious firm of Franklin and Clarke to come in for an interview. Having not applied for a position, Maya is astonished until she learns that her best friend’s computer savvy son created an entirely fake resume and social media persona for Maya and applied for jobs on her behalf. Summoning her courage, Maya goes to the interview, gets hired, and begins a dream-come-true career and rewarding relationships.

Despite the rosy outlook, not all is well with Maya. Panic strikes when she is expected to demonstrate the skills on her resume but luck, moxie, and the help of friends allow her to “fake it until she makes it”. More importantly, Maya’s conscience is starting to eat away at her as she realizes the truth of her ex-boyfriend’s words: “No relationship built on a lie is going to survive.” But if she tells the truth, she could lose everything…

Obviously, parents will be concerned that Second Act glamorizes dishonest behavior. While it is true that Maya initially benefits from her false credentials, the story doesn’t shy away from the consequences of her behavior. And it doesn’t provide a quick and easy rebound for Maya either. The bigger concern in this movie is its almost constant use of profanity with over four dozen swear words. Other content issues are minor and will be over the heads of younger viewers, although, to be honest, this movie will not interest kids. It will likely only appeal to teens and adults with a penchant for romantic comedies.

Fortunately, Second Act has some real pluses to balance out the negative content. It provides vivid depictions of the consequences of dishonesty. And it delivers consistent girl power messages about confidence and self-esteem. The icing on the cake for the audience at the screening I attended seemed to be the heart-tugging themes about the importance of family and relationships. There were certainly many happy tears as the lights went up in the theater. Viewers prepared to give a second chance to a movie with a predictable plot and too much profanity may well enjoy this happily ever after story.

Directed by Peter Segal. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Milo Ventimiglia, and Vanessa Hudgens. Running time: 103 minutes. Theatrical release December 21, 2018. Updated

Watch the trailer for Second Act

Second Act
Rating & Content Info

Why is Second Act rated PG-13? Second Act is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some crude sexual references, and language

Violence: A woman pushes a man she is dancing with into a Christmas tree; he is uninjured. People release birds which fly into a truck and explode. Swirling feathers are shown. A woman deliberately trips another woman. Two women lightly slap each other with no intention of harm. A woman grabs her friend’s breast; it is not a sexual moment. A woman grabs a man’s buttock. The main character wears clothing that is very tight or exposes her cleavage.
Sexual Content: A woman is shown from the shoulders up in the shower. Her long term boyfriend gets in the shower with her and the camera cuts away very quickly. No sexual activity is shown but it is implied. There are several coded jokes about masturbation: it is not mentioned, but the implication is very clear. A woman describes herself as “kinky” but does not provide any other details. A character makes a joke involving a sex change.
Profanity: Second Act has far too much unnecessary profanity. My conservative count comes in at four dozen uses of profanity and crude language. Most frequent curse words are scatological and anatomical terms. A sexual expletive and multiple terms of deity are used along with mild obscenities…
Alcohol / Drug Use: There is some social drinking but no one is shown as intoxicated. Characters drink beer or wine at work functions, at home, and with friends. Baseball players pour alcohol over each other when they win a game.

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Second Act Parents' Guide

Have you ever told a lie or pretended to be something you’re not to impress someone? What effect did that have on the relationship?  On you?  Why do you think we feel a need to impress other people instead of being honest about who we are? What can you do to increase your own self-esteem and social confidence?

Read books about Second Act

Famous impersonator Frank Abagnale’s story is told in the book he co-authored with Stan Redding, Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake.

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is the classic story of disguises and mistaken identities. In The Merchant of Venice a woman pretends to be a man so she can argue in court.

Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s novel, Princess Ben, features a princess who disguises herself as a boy in an entertaining twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

Aladdin has a very similar plot with a genie turning the street rat hero into a prince. Fun for viewers of all ages.

The story of a successful forger and impersonator who practiced as a doctor and lawyer without any training, Catch Me If You Can is a story suitable for teens.

Jennifer Lopez plays the lead in Maid in Manhattan, a Cinderella story also based on mistaken identity.