That’s a lot — indeed, too much — to juggle. Fortunately, the side characters actually produce a handful of laughs, which is helpful, since Maya sports a pained expression much of the time, dealing with both the stress of her charade and a sensitive memory from her past.
Directed by Peter Segal (“Anger Management”), the movie underdevelops its most promising theme, with Maya feeling held back by “the educated people,” who look down on those who don’t share the same academic pedigree regardless of how innovative and industrious they are — qualities Maya abundantly possesses. It’s easier, rather, to show montages of her oohing and aahing at her new-found perks, like getting dragged by the wide-eyed Joan on a corporate shopping spree.
The extent to which the movie works thus largely depends on how generous the audience is feeling going into it. Assuming moviegoers come with modest expectations, “Second Act” possesses enough smarts — book, street or otherwise — to surround its appealing lead with a veritable buffet of narrative options. Opening amid aspiring blockbusters, the best that can be derived from those ingredients amounts to a small, mildly tasty, pre-holiday snack.
“Second Act” premieres Friday in the US. It’s rated PG-13.