By Shawn McKenzie 08/01/2003
I try hard not to become influenced by extremely bad buzz. For weeks, I have heard that Gigli is as bad as notoriously critically hated movies Ishtar and Glitter. I usually reserve judgment until I see the film, especially since I didn’t hate Ishtar and Glitter myself (I just thought they were so-so.) This one isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but it isn’t very good either.
Larry Gigli (Ben Affleck) is employed as the muscle for a criminal “handler” named Louis (Lenny Venito.) He is frustrated by the fact that nobody can pronounce his name right (they keep saying “jiggly,” and he says it rhymes with “really.”) After Larry only gets half of the money owed by Louis’s latest client (Terrence Camilleri), Louis starts to lose confidence in Larry. He gives Larry another job anyway, which involves kidnapping an autistic young man named Brian (Justin Bartha) from his group home and holding him for a few days. Larry isn’t sure why, but he doesn’t question it. After getting Brian back to his apartment, Larry is visited by a good-looking woman named Ricki. She pretends that she is a new neighbor that needs to use the phone, but quickly reveals that she has been hired by Louis to keep tabs on Larry. This frustrates him, but he accepts it, and together they watch Brian. Brian has a few quirks though. Aside from being autistic, he obsesses about going to “Baywatch” (not watching it, but going to the actual place), calling the Australian Weather Line to hear the voice of the woman on the recording, and singing popular old school rap songs a cappella. Larry figures that, while he is stuck with Ricki, he might as well get lucky. That won’t happen, because when he begins putting his moves on her, she reveals that she is a lesbian. This frustrates him even more, because he is a lonely man. The next day, they get a visit from Detective Stanley Jacobellis (Christopher Walken) who tells them that the federal prosecutor’s brother has been kidnapped, and he wonders if Larry knows anything about it. Larry obviously denies any knowledge, and after Jacobellis leaves, Larry and Ricki take Brian out with them so they can find some more information. They discover that Louis assigned Larry this kidnapping to get the feds to back off of his criminal associate, Starkman (Al Pacino), who is under investigation by the federal prosecutor. While out on the town, they visit Larry’s mom (Lainie Kazan), who thinks they make a cute couple. Despite her being a lesbian, Larry keeps trying to talk her into sex. He finds out in an unusual and disturbing way that she has just broken up with her girlfriend, Robin (Missy Crider), and that she has been with men in the past. After Louis asks them to do something to Brian that they are uncomfortable doing, they decide to figure a way out. Along the way, they begin falling for each other, even though Ricki is supposedly dedicated to her lesbianism.
This film feels like everyone is trying to imitate someone else. Affleck is doing an imitation of a tough guy (he didn’t scare me), Bartha is doing an imitation of Rain Man (Dustin Hoffman did it better obviously), Lopez is doing an imitation of a lesbian (not convincing), and Pacino is doing an imitation of every ticked off character he has ever played. Honestly, I don’t know who is to blame. I’ve seen all the actors involved give much better performances (except Bartha, who makes his film debut.) It might be director Martin Brest’s fault, because this is the first time he has directed his own screenplay in almost 25 years. The director of Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run, Scent of a Woman, and Meet Joe Black is obviously a better director than as a writer, because it feels like he had to make the best of his own stinker of a script. What in the world made him decide to rip off one of Affleck’s best movies, Chasing Amy, by having the character try to “convert” the lesbian again? The reason why it wasn’t an offensive plot device in that movie is because its character Alyssa had always been bisexual, but hadn’t found a worthy guy in a long time, so she began calling herself a lesbian out of convenience. In this movie, Ricki had always been a lesbian (despite dalliances with men in her past), and now she suddenly wants a man. Huh?
Affleck and Lopez never show off any tough guy skills throughout the movie, so it is hard to believe that either would be threatening ever. Even during a scene where Lopez is graphically describing how to poke a man’s eyes out to a group of skaters isn’t scary in the slightest.
What is scary is the inappropriate moments included in this movie that breaks the tone of comedy. A girl slashes her wrists (ha ha) and another guy is shot in the head (oh please, let me control the laughter.) I hate it when a movie can’t decide whether it is a comedy or a drama. I don’t mind “dramadies,” but they need to mix together better than they did in this movie.
Is Gigli as bad as the buzz suggests? No, but it could have been a lot better. I laughed a couple of times (Bartha’s rapping and a scene where Affleck was mugging in front of the mirror were amusing), but the comedy buzzkills were hard to take. If I were to make any Razzie nominations for this movie, it would be Brest’s screenplay for Worst Screenplay, Lopez for Worst Actress, and Bartha for Worst Supporting Actor (I hope the kid develops some skills soon.) This movie makes me worry about Jersey Girl, the Kevin Smith-directed movie starring Affleck and Lopez. Anyone who reads Entertain Your Brain enough knows that I am obsessed with anything involving Smith, and supposedly his movie is the one where Affleck and Lopez fell in love (they just met and became friends during Gigli.) One thing I do know for certain…Brest should never direct his own screenplay again!
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