Movie Information

Genre: Indigestible Melange of Genres
Director: Martin Brest
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Barth, Al Pacino, Christopher Walken
Rated: R

How do you even begin to talk about a movie that includes Jennifer Lopez lying on a bed coyly opening and closing her legs and telling Ben Affleck, “It’s turkey time … gobble- gobble”? With great trepidation, I assure you.

Yes, Gigli is every bit as bad as you’ve heard, but I’m not sure it can truly be called the “Worst Movie Ever Made” — or, for that matter, even the “Worst Movie of the Summer.” The first claim is a pretty strong one in a world where movies include, for starters, Roberto Benigni’s Pinocchio (and, really, until you’ve sat through the 1942 musical The Yanks Are Coming, I just don’t think it’s fair to make such an authoritative statement). As for the second claim — let’s just remember From Justin to Kelly.

J-Lo and Affleck are playing “damage control” and blaming their high-profile romance for the movie’s reviews, which make those for The Adventures of Pluto Nash look positively humane. I think the couple need perhaps to look a little closer to home, and blame writer/director Martin Brest.

I once bought a Brest film on DVD — the special edition of Meet Joe Black— because it included a second bonus disc containing Mitchell Leisen’s 1934 version of the same story, Death Takes a Holiday. I had no intention of watching Joe Black, but someone else popped in the disc. Near as I could tell, the movie was still playing about three days later (I’m not sure it ever ended). Brest had taken the classic 78-minute fantasy and transformed it into seemingly endless twaddle (with a few unintentional laughs) involving Brad Pitt eating peanut butter and a somnambulistic Anthony Hopkins droning on about lamb and cilantro sandwiches. More gobble-gobble from the Brest-meister.

At 124 minutes, Gigli still seems at least three days long, though intellectually I know that is merely an illusion. I can’t see the film’s title without thinking of Erich von Stroheim’s mad scientist in The Lady and the Monster telling Vera Hruba Ralston, “Get me the giggli saw.” Unfortunately, this Gigli isn’t a cranial saw, and is pronounced to rhyme with “really” — and it doesn’t have dialogue that memorable. Instead, we get lifeless lines like Affleck’s “In every relationship there’s a cow and a bull — you’re the cow, and I’m the bull.” Turkeys, cows, bulls — Brest is obviously a repressed farmer. Sweet Jesus! The man actually got paid for writing that.

He also got paid for coming up with the movie’s improbable story, which must have been pitched as “kind of like Chasing Amy with gangsters — only we throw in a bit of Rain Man and a dash of The Mexican and some Tarantino-esque violence and dialogue” (I’ve seen racehorses with less-convoluted genealogies). The result is an inane story that has Larry Gigli (Affleck) hired to kidnap Brian (Justin Barth), the mentally challenged brother of a U.S. prosecutor, to pressure the attorney to drop the case against a gangster named Starkman (Al “I Owed Brest a Favor for Scent of a Woman” Pacino).

Never mind that the idea makes no sense. But Brest is going to make it make even less sense by having Larry’s boss (Lenny Venito) bring in lesbian hit-woman “Ricki” (not her real name, but played by Lopez) because he doesn’t trust Larry not to screw it up. Why didn’t he just hire “Ricki” in the first place? Go ahead and ask, though you won’t get an answer.

The kidnapping itself is equally believable — Larry just walks into the institution where the kid lives and then walks out with him! To add to the mix, Brian is not only mentally challenged, he also appears to have Tourette’s — at least for the first half of the movie. After that — having milked this “gag” for way more than it’s worth — Brest drops the sudden outbursts of profanity. In the meantime, of course, Larry and “Ricki” fall in love and do the turkey trot. But since the film doesn’t want to suggest that all “Ricki” needed to go straight was a good basting by Larry, their getting fowl-ed up is followed by reels and reels and reels of “Ricki” espousing her sexuality and questioning Larry’s own (while also suggesting various eye makeups).

Not to worry — it’ll all work out in the end, since Gigli is supposed to be a singularly whacked romantic comedy. With this in mind, Brest tosses in “Ricki’s” ex-girlfriend, who shows up on Larry’s doorstep to pull that romantic-comedy staple — a suicide attempt. Now, there’s a belly laugh for you. Meanwhile, we get a cameo from Christopher “The Country Bears Proves I Have No Career Sense” Walken as a detective, plus an idiotic bit where Larry uses a plastic knife to hack the thumb off a corpse in the morgue after being ordered to send Brian’s own thumb to the prosecutor to turn up the heat. (At least it proves harder to get a thumb out of the morgue than it does to get a patient out of a mental hospital.)

All of this leads to an encounter with Pacino’s brazenly psychotic gangster and an extended ending that only exceeds its contrived improbability by its jaw-dropping ability to imitate the Energizer Bunny and just keep going and going and going. And unless you just have to see this, well, turkey for yourself, that’s also my own suggestion: Just keep going and going and going — right past any screen afflicted with the Gigli disease.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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