It was the first film written and directed by Smith not to be set in the View Askewniverse as well as the first not to feature appearances by Jay and Silent Bob, although animated versions of them appear in the View Askew logo. At $35 million, it was Smith's biggest-budgeted project but went on to become a box office bomb, grossing just $36 million.
Ollie Trinké (Ben Affleck) is a powerful media publicist in New York City whose wife, Gertie (Jennifer Lopez), dies during childbirth with an aneurysm. To avoid his grief, he buries himself in his work and ignores his new daughter, Gertie, while his father, Bart (George Carlin), takes a month off from work to care for her, but returns so that Ollie is forced to live up to his responsibility as a parent. Under the stress of a botched diaper change and a baby who will not stop crying, he trashes his client, Will Smith, for his soon-to-be released film, Independence Day, in front of assembled reporters. That costs him his job, so he moves in with Bart in New Jersey. He eventually apologizes for ignoring Gertie, and attributes his public outburst to his grief.
Blacklisted by all of New York City's public relations firms, Ollie has to work as a civil servant in the borough where he now lives with Bart. Seven years later, Gertie (Raquel Castro), now in elementary school, often coaxes him to rent films to watch. At the video store, they meet Maya (Liv Tyler), a graduate student and one of the clerks, whose uninhibited probing into Ollie's love life almost leads to them having casual sex. She soon becomes a part of their lives.
As part of his job in the borough, Ollie speaks to a group of outraged citizens to win over their approval for a major public works project that will temporarily close a street in the neighborhood. His successful and enjoyable interaction with them leads him to realize how much he misses the public relations work. He contacts Arthur (Jason Biggs), his one-time protégé, who sets up a promising interview.
The prospect of moving back to New York City creates tension among Ollie, Gertie, Bart, and Maya, especially when he says that his interview is on the same day as Gertie's school talent show. She yells at him, saying she hates him and that she wishes he had died instead of her mother. He claims he hates her right back, and says she and Gertie took his life away and he just wants it back. He immediately regrets it and tries to apologize, but the damage is done and she pushes him away and runs to her room, crying. A few days later they finally patch things up, and she accepts the fact that they will be moving to New York City. While waiting to be interviewed, he has a chance encounter with Will Smith (playing himself), who he trashed at his public outburst years before. Smith has no idea who Ollie is, but they have a conversation about work and children that persuades Ollie to skip the interview and leave.
Ollie rushes to make it to Gertie's Sweeney Todd performance at the last moment. The film ends with him, Gertie, Bart, Maya, and the rest celebrating at the bar. He and Maya hint at possible feelings for each other before being interrupted by Gertie. He holds her and says that they are staying in New Jersey because he did not take the job. She asks why he did so if he loved it so much. He says that he thought he did, but he loved his new life more because being a father to her was the only thing that he was ever really good at.Ben Affleck as Ollie Trinké
Liv Tyler as Maya Harding
Raquel Castro as Gertie Trinké
George Carlin as Bart Trinké
Jennifer Lopez as Gertie Steiney
Stephen Root as Greenie
Mike Starr as Block
Jason Biggs as Arthur Brickman
Will Smith as Himself (uncredited)
Jason Lee as PR Exec. 1
Matt Damon as PR Exec. 2
S. Epatha Merkerson as Doctor
Paulie Litt as Bryan (as Paulie Litowsky)
Harley Quinn Smith as Trace Colelli (uncredited)
Matthew Maher as Delivery Guy (as Matt Maher)
The film's budget included $10 million for Affleck and $4 million for Lopez. In the original draft of the script, Bruce Willis rather than Will Smith was the cause of (and eventual resolution to) Ollie's problems. Smith wrote the first fifty pages of the script with Bill Murray and Joey Lauren Adams in mind. The film was primarily shot in Highlands, New Jersey. Academy Award-winning Vilmos Zsigmond, its director of photography, was said by Smith to have been "an ornery old cuss who made the crew miserable." Paulsboro, New Jersey served as one of the shooting locations; scenes were shot there at its municipal building, Clam Digger Bar, and high school. Cut from it were scenes at Paulsboro's St. John's Church and Little League Field. The scene in the church was to show the marriage between Ollie and Gertie; it was cut shortly after their split and scenes reshot, reducing her part to a cameo due to concern over the poor box office reception of Gigli. It is the first major theatrical release to include a 9/11 joke: when Gertie asks to see Cats, Ollie refuses on the grounds that it is "the second-worst thing to happen to New York City." On the second episode of the podcast "Blow Hard with Malcolm Ingram", Smith tells a story of Malcolm sending him lyrics to "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac trying to apologize for an earlier incident. He was so touched by the email that he included the song in the soundtrack.
Jason Mewes, the actor who played Jay in the View Askewniverse films, was to have a part in the film as "Delivery Guy" with the memorable "crotch rot" line, but Kevin Smith had temporarily severed ties with him as part of a "tough love" approach to get him to quit using heroin. The role was given to Matthew Maher. Betty Aberlin, best known as Lady Aberlin of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood’s Neighborhood of Make-Believe, portrays Gertie's teacher, a nun. She also portrayed one in Smith's earlier film Dogma.Everyone's A Kid At Christmas - Performed by Stevie Wonder
Let's Stay Together - Performed by Al Green
Parents Just Don't Understand - Performed by Jeffrey A. Townes (as DJ Jazzy Jeff) and Will Smith (as the Fresh Prince)
That's How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart - Written and Performed by Aimee Mann
Swing Low Sweet Chariot - Performed by George Jones
Worlds They Rise and Fall - Performed by The Incredible String Band
Johanna - Written by Stephen Sondheim
Wandering - Performed by Ben Folds
Landslide - Performed by Fleetwood Mac
My City of Ruins - Written and Performed by Bruce Springsteen
High - Performed by The Cure
Let My Love Open The Door (E.Cola Mix) - Written and Performed by Pete Townshend
Jersey Girl - Performed by Bruce Springsteen
God That's Good - Performed by Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Raquel Castro, Stephen Root, and Mike Starr
The film is Smith's first to have received a PG-13 rating. According to interviews with Smith in the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated, it was originally given an R due to the dialogue with Ollie and Maya discussing masturbation in the diner, but that decision was overturned. An extended cut was shown at Kevin Smith's private film festival Vulgarthon in 2005 and 2006. The extended version included much more of the Jennifer Lopez section, Ben Affleck's full speech in the city hall, a longer ending, and some music changes. On the film's audio commentary, Smith stated that a longer version of it would be released within the next year. At a Q&A session in Vancouver in early 2009, Smith said that a release of the extended cut on DVD and Blu-ray Disc is "very possible".
The film grossed $25.2 million in North American and $10.8 million internationally for a total gross of $36.1 million, against a $35 million budget.
Jersey Girl received mixed reviews from critics. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 41% based on 171 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10. The site's consensus reads, "A surprisingly conventional romantic comedy from Kevin Smith, Jersey Girl is warm but often overly sentimental" On Metacritic the film has a score of 43 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Smith was quoted saying his film was "not for critics". Kevin Smith's reaction to Jersey Girl after its failure was dour. Smith references the film during his cameo appearance in Degrassi: The Next Generation; he jokingly tells Paige Michalchuk, whom he cut out of his fictional film Jay and Silent Bob Go Canadian, Eh!, that he cut Lopez out of most of Jersey Girl and wanted to cut Affleck out too "but then it just would have been that little kid". In an interview from the Clerks II DVD, Smith noted "All these people were just trashing this movie's stars instead of looking at the movie itself. I get that a lot of people didn't like it but dude, I spent two years of my life on that movie."
The film was nominated for three Razzie Awards: Worst Actor for Ben Affleck, Worst Supporting Actress for Jennifer Lopez, and according to the press release, "Ben Affleck and either Jennifer Lopez or Liv Tyler" for Worst On-Screen Couple. Raquel Castro won a Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film – Young Actress Age Ten or Younger for her performance and the film was nominated for Best Family Feature Film – Comedy or Musical, but lost to Christmas with the Kranks.