Rear view

Film - Philip Kerr takes the measure of Jennifer Lopez

It is sometimes said that, when acting, Richard Gere's face can wear only two expressions: "Where did I park my car?" and "So that's where I parked my car". Next to Jennifer Lopez, however, Gere looks like Rowan Atkinson. As an actress, Lopez seems to suffer from Moebius syndrome, which means that her face can wear only one expression: "Doesn't my sweet ass look good?"

There can be few who would doubt that Lopez believes what the world seems to be telling her: that her ass would look good in almost anything - that it would look good even in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days. It will be remembered that this play features Winnie buried up to her waist in a mound of sun-baked earth - as if death has half-claimed her and the earth is sucking her under. If Winnie is like an ageing breast, then Lopez is the apotheosis of the popliteal - which is to say, she is a pert piece of ham.

"But what's the idea of you?" Winnie might have asked Jennifer. "What are you meant to mean?"

It's a fair question. After all, how far can one shapely bottom take you? Eventually, the earth will inter Lopez and her dreams as ineluctably as it rises around Winnie's neck. Only not yet. At least not while there is a lucrative career to be built on the foundation of her bottom.

The subject of Lopez's salient bottom continues to fascinate a good many of the glossy magazines; and I am informed that there are women queueing up outside the offices of plastic surgeons all over California, demanding to have their scrawny arses filled with whatever it is that makes Lopez's gluteus muscles look like the posterior of a blow-up doll.

If, for a moment, you were to suppose that a plastic surgeon's hypodermic syringe was filled with the collagen-like substance that makes Lopez's ego swell even larger than her rear, then I dare say there would be more than enough to fill the sagging bottom of every sad member of America's caudally-fixated sorority. But if you were also to suppose that the same surgeon might try to fill a syringe with Lopez's acting talent, then I doubt there would be a sufficient amount to fill the thorax of Azteca, the animated ant she voiced in the film Antz - to my mind, her best part to date.

In The Wedding Planner (her latest star-vehicle), this tedious, kabuki-faced marionette plays the part of a postmodern Dolly Levi - which is to say that, today, making a good show is more important than making a good match. Needless to say, Lopez is not just any wedding planner, but the most prestigious in San Francisco, which made me wonder if there might also be such people as career planners in California? If so, Lopez would seem to need one, badly. This terrible film is merely the latest terrible film in a long line of terrible films that now includes The Cell, U Turn, Anaconda and Money Train - the last being a ludicrous yarn in which a plastic snake acted her off the screen.

The laughably thin, formulaic plot of The Wedding Planner goes something like this: one day, she is walking across a street in what is surely the most preposterously located city in the world. Halfway across, she manages to wedge the high heel of a shoe - designed to elevate her to the height of most normal Hollywood stars (that is, about 5ft 3) - into a ventilation grate in the middle of the road. Quicker than you could ask if George Clooney wears a toupee, she finds herself in the path of a large dustbin on wheels that, this being San Francisco, starts to roll down a hill towards her. That's the thing about San Francisco: things will roll down hills - and quickly, too. Remember Bullitt?

This was where the movie had me riveted, momentarily. The bathos of Lopez immolated beneath the wheels of a juggernaut full of garbage, symbolically dumped on her ass, and covered in potato peelings, was a prospect not to be missed. Imagine my disappointment when she was rescued by Matthew McConaughey, who is Mr Mahogany in a long line of wooden actors seemingly inspired by the ligneous talent of Richard Gere. Matthew Mahogany's Jonah Lomu-style rescue of Lopez merely furnishes yet one more reason to dislike him. After spending an evening with Mahogany, Lopez thinks she has finally found a man to fall in love with herself. But Mahogany is the groom-to-be of her most recent, more-money-than-sense client. I'd like to tell you what happened next, but it was about here that I fell asleep.

The poet Emerson tells us never to read a book that is not a year old and, in truth, I often pick up a Penguin Classic in preference to the latest Philippa Gregory. It's the same with movies. Why go to sit through dross such as The Wedding Planner when you can go to the British Film Institute and bask in the golden aura of Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945)? Crawford won an Oscar for her performance as Mildred. The film may be black and white, and it may be 55 years old, but it's still a better bit of acting by a woman, not to mention a better script - based on the novel by James M Cain - than anything you are likely to see in the modern cinema. It is not that there aren't any good actresses these days, but that, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, and with the one exception of Julia Roberts, Hollywood continues to believe that women do not open pictures. And not just Hollywood. Intermedia Film, which produced The Wedding Singer - sorry, that should be The Wedding Planner, but hey, what's the difference? - is a British company. It should know better.

Watching Crawford's performance as a woman who will make any sacrifice and suffer any humiliation to advance her arrogant, snobbish, sexually precocious child, I could not help but contrast it with Lopez's botoxed acting talent. And I realised that there was more craft in one of Crawford's perfectly arched eyebrows than in the whole of Lopez's face, not to mention the bifurcated summit of her much-hyped derriere.

The Wedding Planner (PG) is on nationwide release