For those who never tune into E! (shame on you), here's the backstory. Ben and Jen fell in love on the Gigli set. Fireworks off-screen, though, didn't translate to chemistry on-screen, and the movie was shredded by test audiences. Columbia originally planned to open Gigli in November 2002, but hesitated and shelved the film until now, which usually signifies disaster.
The results aren't as dire as expected, but they remain far from entertaining. Together, Affleck and Lopez have approximately six good movies to their names. Gigli isn't one of them. Vulgar, insensitive and unaware of its direction, the split-personality character study wavers from mob drama to romantic comedy when it should've picked one and stuck with it.
Blame writer/director Martin Brest, who has helmed good movies in the past (Midnight Run, Scent of a Woman), but hasn't written a script since 1979's Going in Style. His rust coats Gigli like a suit of armor. There's no rhythm to his putrid dialogue, no flow to his preposterous scenes. Conversations are loaded with sex talk, but devoid of heat. The movie occasionally builds momentum, but crass punch lines linger around every corner, ready to stop this train in its tracks.
The story centers on thug-for-hire Larry Gigli (Affleck), which rhymes with "really." Petty mobster Louis (Lenny Venito) orders Gigli to kidnap Brian (Justin Bartha), the mentally disabled brother of a federal prosecutor. They hope to use their hostage as leverage in a case pending against their crime boss, Starkman (Al Pacino). But shortly after assigning Gigli to the kidnapping, Louis loses faith and sends in levelheaded Ricki (Lopez) for reinforcements.
Logic exits once Jenny from the block enters, and erratic character motivations raise more questions than answers. Why does Louis assign Gigli to such an important task if he doesn't trust him? And what sours Louis on Gigli, who up until this point seems to be a bullheaded but loyal goon? The answer, while pat, is that Gigli needs Louis to be hostile so that Ricki can enter the picture and our cute couple can commence mugging.
As for the celebrated twosome, they labor through with heads held high but are constantly betrayed by Brest's impractical script. Lopez diligently recites her loquacious lines about Zen living, but she's not believable as a beauty with a brain, a pacifist packed into a denim mini-skirt. Affleck's not sure whether to play for exaggerated laughs or straight-up intimidation. The script gives him no guidance, so he haphazardly tries both, whether it fits the mood of the current scene or not.
Newcomer Bartha sees Brian as a poor man's version of Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man character, but never amounts to more than a device. He periodically suffers from Tourette's Syndrome, sporadically breaks out into old school rap songs like Sir Mix a Lot's "Baby Got Back" (a J. Lo homage, no doubt), and dreams of living in the place where Baywatch is filmed. Brest's incessant attempts to humiliate this character border on cruelty. Only the deliciously over-the-top cameos by Pacino and Christopher Walken snatch Gigli from the trash heap and give you two reasons to eventually watch this movie on HBO.
The rest is forgettable. Brest's insufferable screenplay is rife with endless blow job references and ambiguous questions regarding Gigli's heterosexuality. You'd think Affleck's buddy Kevin Smith took a shot at the rewrites. Heck, if Jason Mewes had plugged himself into the Brian character and the action had shifted from Santa Monica to Red Bank, NJ, Gigli could have been a Smith movie.
Ironically, it's Smith who has the most to lose over the Gigli backlash. Affleck and Lopez are set to star in the director's forthcoming Jersey Girl, due out in February. Perhaps Ashton Kutcher will have married the Olsen Twins by then, though, and the world will have moved past the merger of Ben and Jen.
Waiting for the marriage counselor.
Run time: 121 mins
In Theaters: Friday 1st August 2003
Box Office Worldwide: $7.3M
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures, Revolution Studios
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
IMDB: 2.3 / 10
Director: Martin Brest
Screenwriter: Martin Brest
Starring: Ben Affleck as Larry Gigli, Jennifer Lopez as Ricki, Justin Bartha as Brian, Lainie Kazan as Mother, Lenny Venito as Louis, Missy Crider as Robin, Al Pacino as Starkman, Christopher Walken as Det. Stanley Jacobellis
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