Gigli (United States, 2003)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

I saw Gigli for much the same reason that a good portion of the movie's eventual audience will see it. Jen and Ben? No. Morbid curiosity? Yes. After all, it had become fashionable to rip Gigli. The advance word on this film was so vicious that I had to see for myself if it's as bad as its early reputation suggested. The verdict: Gigli doesn't live up to (or should that be down to?) its hype. The worst film of all time? Give me a break. Gigli isn't even the worst film of the summer, and won't come close to the year's Bottom 10 list. I'm not going to defend the movie. I don't recommend it and, for the most part, it's an example of inept filmmaking, but it is watchable. I have to wonder if those who are coming down so hard on the motion picture have a secondary agenda. Are they reviewing Gigli, or are they making a comment on the tabloid supersaturation associated with the Jen & Ben show? (As a side note, I am unable to determine why anyone but their friends and family care what's going on with these two. What difference does it make to your life?)

Admittedly, the plot is nothing short of idiotic. Larry (Affleck) and Ricki (Lopez) are two Los Angeles enforcers on the payroll of gangster Louis (Lenny Vito), who is trying to do a favor for Starkman (Al Pacino), a New York City mob boss currently up on a string of criminal charges. To that end, Louis commands Larry and Ricki to abduct the mentally handicapped brother of a federal prosecutor, assuming that will give Starkman leverage. After nabbing Brian (Justin Bartha) from a care facility, Larry brings him to his apartment. Shortly thereafter, Ricki shows up and informs Larry that he's stuck with her until the mission is over. So, for the next several days, they hang around keeping a mistrustful eye on each other, arguing, and waiting for Louis to call with additional instructions. When Larry tries to put the movies on Ricki, he discovers that he's not her ideal partner - she's a lesbian.

Ben Affleck, who does his best work in "average guy" parts, is in over his head, giving a performance that is as uneven as his accent. His attempts to portray macho, chauvinistic Larry come across as cartoonish. Fortunately, however, Affleck does exhibit some chemistry with his co-star. It doesn't burn up the screen, but it is there, simmering beneath the surface. For Lopez, this does not represent a return to the kind of top-notch acting she showed in movies like Selena and Out of Sight, but it's a vast improvement over her one-dimensional turn in Enough. Justin Bartha has the unenviable part of playing a walking plot device - the retarded character who's on hand to alternately provide comic relief and fake sentiment. Al Pacino and Christopher Walken have one-scene appearances that allow them to do what they do best. For Walken, that's to act weird, and for Pacino, that's to shout a lot, almost to the point of foaming at the mouth.

Some of the dialogue is astonishingly awful. Sex and relationships are constantly likened to animal interaction. When Ricki wants some action, she purrs, "It's turkey time." Then, when Larry doesn't get it, she adds, "Gobble, gobble." He, on the other hand, assures her that "in every relationship, there's a bull and a cow." Later, to prove his point, he moos. Yet, as bad as this material is, there is a wonderfully inventive conversation in which Ricki and Larry advocate the superiority of their sex organs. For him, it's all about the penis. For her, it's the vagina monologues. And this dialogue, which occurs while Lopez is clad in spandex shorts doing yoga, is a real winner.

Gigli is kind of like that - rare worthwhile scenes buried under tons of garbage. Director Martin Brest doesn't understand the meaning of the word brevity. Gigli could easily have been 30 minutes shorter. Although Brest doesn't have his characters pause as painfully often as they did in Meet Joe Black, conversations and scenes frequently last too long. Maybe the problem is that Brest needs a better editor. And, at least in this case, a better plot.

Brest has made a romantic comedy. Although there are plenty of unintentional laughs, some of the deliberate humor also works. The romantic element of the movie is bound to cause some controversy, since Gigli fulfills the male fantasy of the guy winning over the lesbian. However, the movie makes it plain that Ricki isn't really a lesbian, but a bisexual who is fed up with men. And, besides, Ben Affleck has been in this situation before. Anyone remember Chasing Amy?

Some reviewers have complained about the levels of gore and profanity in Gigli. Careful examination, however, will reveal that movies like Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction contain far more instances of the f-word and a lot more brain splatter than can be found here. Such comments seem like red herrings from those who are looking for more ammunition to lob at Gigli. This isn't a good film, but, when set alongside the likes of Dumb and Dumberer and Legally Blonde 2, Jen & Ben offer less pain.

Gigli (United States, 2003)

Director: Martin Brest
Cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bartha, Lenny Venito, Al Pacino
Screenplay: Martin Brest
Cinematography: Robert Elswit
Music: John Powell
U.S. Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Run Time: 2:04
U.S. Release Date: 2003-08-01
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Content, Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1