A true cinematic turd floating aimlessly down the painfully slow and meandering river of it's own pointless ineptitude.

Released in 2003, certified USA-R. Reviewed on 02 Aug 2003 by Craig Eastman
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You have to wonder why any mainstream celebrity would want to indulge in a pet vanity project. With the exception of Salma Hayek's Frida, there hasn't really been a single worthwhile personal endeavour to come out of Hollywood in some time. Quite what inspired the talented Ben Affleck to indulge in Gigli remains a mystery, but he's made it painfully clear in the press over recent months that this is a movie he holds in deep personal regard. Talk about setting yourself up for a fall. It's a shame this has happened to Affleck of all people, but if it's any consolation he can take comfort in the thought that he's still young enough, popular enough and has sufficient momentum to leave this travesty behind and focus on a long and fruitful future in the industry. Hopefully...

The somewhat flimsy plot of Gigli revolves around the titular Larry "rhymes with really" Gigli Ben Affleck), a smalltime hood working for regional crime boss Louis (Lenny Venito) whose own boss is currently in a spot of bother with the law. Currently being investigated by a powerful federal prosecutor, Starkman is facing a long stretch if things don't go his way. To this end, Louis instructs Gigli to kidnap the prosecutor's son Brian (Justin Bartha) so he can be used as leverage. As luck would have it for the simple hood, Brian is mentally retarded, making his presence at Gigli's apartment something of a chore.

Things take a potentially good turn for Gigli when Louis sends another 'contractor' to keep an eye on him and make sure he doesn't cock things up. That individual is no less than Ricki (Jennifer Lopez), a smart, sassy, empowered, beautiful...lesbian. Imagine Gigli's dismay! Stuck in his own home with a spastic and a dyke! Hoh ho! I bet some hilarious consequences are afoot! Mmmmmmm, no, not really. There follows an hour and a half of tedious bonding as the three characters learn to cope with and ultimately enjoy each other's presence. It'll come as no surprise to mention that Gigli falls for Ricki big time, the torment of sleeping next to a stunning woman who you can't possibly have every night driving him round the bend. Hee hee! That's really funny!

There are various intrusions along the way, from Ricki's obsessive ex-partner, herself a contractor who turns up, is unable to accept she's been dumped and cuts her wrists in front of the alarmed trio, to an irate Louis insisting it's time to turn up the heat and ordering Gigli to cut off Brian's thumb and post it to his father. Bennifer aren't prepared to carry out the deed, having come to harbour some affection for the comical young simpleton, and so upon taking Ricki's ex to the hospital they bust into the morgue and cut the digit from a stiff instead. Ha ha! That's really funny!

Eventually Gigli, Ricki and Louis are called to Starkman's home for the only vaguely decent scene in the film. It comes as some relief that Starkman is played by none other than Al Pacino, clearly getting this mixed up with some other film but graciously fulfilling the role anyway. Obviously determined to come out on top of this half-baked clunker, Pacino does more Shouting™ than in any of his other films and shoots Louis in the head, his brains dripping down the wall and into Starkman's fishtank where the little chunks are fed on by the nice fishes. Ho ho! That's really funny!

It transpires that Starkman had no desire for Brian to be kidnapped, and that Louie, working on his own to try and impress his boss, has now brought down exponentially more heat upon his boss. Presumably Pacino found the motivation for his rage during this scene by reading the parts of the script that weren't his, but at least he manages to save five minutes of an otherwise risible fiasco. Now faced with something of a dilema, Gigli and Ricki have saved their bacon by promising to kill Brian; an act they obviously have no intention of carrying through. What to do? You're unlikely to care to be honest.

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The primary reason why Gigli is such a coiled bum snake is...everything. Pacino aside there really isn't a redeeming feature to be found. Director Martin Brest has done so much better things with his time, his previous project Meet Joe Black aside. You'd think in the six years since that 'gem' he'd have undergone some mystical soul searching and discovered the true nature of directorial form. Unfortunately this is no Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run or Scent of a Woman (presumably Pacino's work in that film explaining his presence here as a favour). His direction is flat, barren and indeed almost non-existent. Where is the flare? Where is the control? Brest seems happy to let his leads call their own shots, no doubt hoping for the comic chemistry of De Niro and Grodin in Midnight Run, but receiving instead something more resembling the harmonious fusion of Hiroshima and 'Little Boy'.

Lopez is perhaps the only one who doesn't disappoint because, and this is another example of my 'Liz Hurley Ruling', you know she's going to be cack anyway. Affleck has presumably been taking crazy pills, either that or the fact this was the film he fell in love with J-Lo on and took out a full page advert in Variety proclaiming her "professionalism" presumably clouding his judgements. Be it insanity or a bulge in his pants, either way this is a major blow to the lad's credibility, which is a shame because you just know he's a really nice bloke in the flesh. Watching him act 'cool', pretending to be Chilli Palmer in Get Shorty for the first twenty minutes (the cheeky bastards even practically cut and paste that film's score) is a painful experience, leaving this reviewer wanting to grab him by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. Why, Ben, why?

What passes for a script here should have had everybody's alarm bells ringing. Characterisation seems to be a foreign word for Brest who also wrote the picture. The inconsistency of Affleck's character is a major concern; a supposedly simple thug who often struggles to string three words together, he's prone to outbursts of bizarre linguistic elegance any time he wants to belittle anyone. Having noticed this particular trait in some of his other roles, one suspects maybe this was Affleck ad-libbing, in which case shame on Brest for not having the balls to tell his lead when to shut the hell up, and likewise Affleck for having no sense of continuity with his role.

Presumably trying to gloss over the general banality of the script, Brest pens in a ridiculous number of "fuck"s, something the film has in common with Midnight Run, only in that film there was plenty of brilliant dialogue. Here everything just seems terribly disjointed, another attempt at self-aware ultra-hip Pulp Fiction speak that hasn't got a clue when to start nor stop. It isn't big, and in a circumstance like this it most definitely isn't clever, much like the borderline slapstick treatment of a handicapped young man. Justin Bartha should have run a mile at the prospect of playing Brian. Great delight is taken in ridiculing his character between the lines, from having him 'hilariously' recite Beastie Boys tracks like Funky Monkey to fobbing him off by reading the back of a bottle of Tabasco sauce instead of a bedtime story.

The best thing about Gigli is that it ends. The worst thing about it is that it starts. The latter is not worth enduring for the pleasure of the former, a sensation I can only describe as finally relieving ones self after two hours searching for a toilet. This film will sink without a trace, that much is for sure. The big question is how will Affleck bounce back? One suspects he's too busy mooching over Jenny From the Block right now to care, but the weekend box office sure is gonna shake him up a bit.

From my island of objectivity, I have awarded this film 1 out of 5 Disko Units.

Martin Brest
Cast list:
Ben Affleck (Gigli)
Jennifer Lopez (Ricki)
Lenny Venito (Louis)
Justin Bartha (Brian)
Al Pacino (Starkman)