Jennifer Lopez: Eric Charbonneau/BEImages
Gillian Flynn
August 06, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Our advice for J. Lo and other flailing leading ladies

The girls of summer have had a tough time of it, and I’m not talking about the leather-clad Terminatrix that Arnold booted all over the lavatory. What was supposed to be the Summer of the Chick Flick — ”Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” ”Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life,” ”Legally Blonde 2,” ”How to Deal,” ”Gigli” — wasn’t. Here, we give our troupe of ailing actresses a little career advice for surviving these dog days of summer.

JENNIFER LOPEZ Oh, Jenny From the Block, what were you thinking? In ”Gigli,” you (a) waxed creepy about your female anatomy while doing yoga in the moonlight; (b) smiled moonily at Ben Affleck as he offered relationship analogies that compared you to a bovine; and (c) initiated foreplay by gobbling like a turkey (unfortunately prescient, as evidenced by ”Gigli”’s lousy box office). How to erase these devastating images from moviegoers’ minds? Normally, I’d advise distancing yourself from the miserable movie’s costar, but since you’re about to marry the guy (and star in the upcoming ”Jersey Girl” with him), this will be difficult. ”Shall We Dance,” in which you play a dance instructor to uptight workaholic Richard Gere, might be just the ticket — the lightness you were looking for in ”Gigli” without the…really bad dialogue. But please, never again compare the male member to a sea slug. At least not on film.

ANGELINA JOLIE Don’t blame yourself — ”Tomb Raider” was a great idea. In theory. Sexy, capable adventuress who wears a lot of latex and strap-on pistols — what’s not to like? Unfortunately, the only thing that keeps these stolid, joyless films afloat is your sheer charisma. Ditch them. Your ”Catherine the Great” project is the kind of sweeping epic movie you were made for. But after that, you should lighten up. With your growl of a voice and natural grace, you’d be ideal for a vampy musical. Look what it did for Catherine Zeta-Jones.

THE ANGELS First of all, it’s time to hang up the halos. But let’s assess what we learned: You three can kick butt with panache; whip up a fizzy chemistry with fellow actresses, and boast precision comedic timing. Cameron, we’ve seen you do enough raunch, from ”Something About Mary” to ”Sweetest Thing.” Why not channel your frantic bubbliness into a real screwball comedy? In short, I see a dizzy heiress in your future; take that $20 million you earned for ”Angels” and use it as seed money for a remake of ”Bringing Up Baby.” Lucy, the ”Charlie Chan” detective series you’re reviving will play up your action cred, but ”Angels” proved you’re an apt comedian, too. Look for a romantic comedy opposite a different ”Friend,” like Matthew Perry, whose acerbic tone would nicely match yours. As for Drew, your reteaming with ”Wedding Singer” costar Adam Sandler for ”50 First Kisses” — in which you play a woman with short-term memory loss who must be re-wooed each day — could be fun. Or really irritating. Why not look for another ensemble project, a family drama, for instance? It could free you from the cuddly persona you’re so often trapped in.

REESE WITHERSPOON Don’t worry about ”Legally Blonde 2”’s dismissal — you were always too smart an actress for that froth. You go period in the upcoming ”Vanity Fair,” but play the kind of status-obsessed, scheming antiheroine you’ve inhabited from ”Election” to ”Sweet Home Alabama.” You are desperately in need of a character who doesn’t give a fig about fashion, who might occasionally muss her hair, and who doesn’t learn an important lesson. Play a cop. Do a courtroom drama. Be desperately unperky. In short, if you can picture Meg Ryan in it 10 years ago, slap that script down.

MANDY MOORE With Hilary Duff and Amanda Bynes nailing the tween crowd, and Julia Stiles and Kirsten Dunst capturing the college market, what’s a 19-year-old to do? The dark gang drama ”Havoc,” costarring Jena Malone, is a smart step, but in this crowded girlie market you need something really different. Think Maggie Gyllenhaal in ”Secretary.” Think Freaky, Jaw-Dropping Sundance Darling. Think anti-Olsen Twin.

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