A widowed father (Ben Affleck) tries to raise his 7-year-old daughter (Raquel Castro) while managing a budding romance with a video-store clerk (Liv Tyler). What’s happened to writer-director Kevin Smith? After the grungy, cheerful irreverence of Clerks
, he seems suddenly to be channeling the Chris Columbus of fraudulent movies like Stepmom
. Smith’s film is more sincere than anything Columbus could muster, but the sincerity is undermined by a random flood of clichés and contrivances that try for tepid laughs or push emotional buttons. Affleck is sturdy and reliable, and young Castro preens cutely. The film has two good reasons to see it: Tyler is vivacious and charming, and, as Affleck’s father, comic George Carlin grounds the whole film with his warmly crotchety performance.