by Collin Souter
By now, “Gigli” has almost achieved the status of legend in the realm of bad cinema. As I write this, the movie enters its first weekend of release. The critics have been slaughtering it for weeks already and every day at www.imdb.com there has been a news item relating to “Gigli” and its pending doom. As the reviews get worse and worse, no doubt the curiosity factor goes up and up. Mine sure as hell did. Of all the movies I didn’t want to see this year, “Gigli” was the one I wanted to see the most. I have a sick fascination with movies that carry a buzz this negative.Most of these advance reviews came from critics who sat in a room with other critics. I wanted to see the carnage for myself with the average movie-going public. I wanted to listen for the pin drop when J-Lo says her now-legendary sexual advance toward Affleck. I wanted to hear the audience gasp in horror along with me when…well…anything happened. Word was all over the papers and other media outlets on Friday, August 1, 2003, that “Gigli” would be the year’s biggest turd. I wanted to view this with the kinds of people who would actually go see “Gigli” opening night, completely unsuspecting, the kind of people who never watch or read the news.
"Imagine a movie made up entirely of Deleted Scenes"
Shockingly, the theater filled to about 1/3 capacity, way, way more than I would have expected. Apparently, word doesn’t travel fast enough for these people. As the movie got going, people forced the laughter out of themselves. “Ha-ha-ha-ha…look at the little retarded guy…ha-ha-ha-ha-, you tell ‘em, Jay-Lo!…ha-ha-ha-ha-she said penis!” Nobody seemed interested in the actual story, just the so-called chemistry between Affleck and Jay-Lo. I grew fascinated by the audience’s advances toward the film. They poked it and prodded it to be funny, just so they could save themselves the humiliation of admitting they had each lost $9.50 of their hard-earned money.
But my fascination only lasted about ten minutes. Then I just grew sickened. And bored. Bored, bored, bored. Martin Brest has made boring movies before (“Meet Joe Black”) and he has also made one of my favorite buddy movies of all time (“Midnight Run”), so I never, ever would have expected a screenplay of this magnitude or a directorial effort so mis-calculated. The movie plays as though it were comprised of deleted scenes you find on a DVD. Some scenes come and go and explain nothing, while others wear out their welcome after the first knowing glance.
The story goes all over the place. Larry Gigli (Affleck) is a chump for the mob who is forced to pick up a mentally disabled young man named Brian (Justin Bartha) and keep him around until further notice (Why? Don’t ask). Eventually, Ricki (Jay-Lo) steps into Gigli’s apartment to observe his progress. She too has been asked to monitor the mentally disabled kid. Then, Christopher Walkin comes in, does his Christopher Walkin thing, says nothing of interest to anybody, and leaves (lucky guy).
So, basically, the audience is stuck for over an hour with nobody but Gigli, Ricki and Brian. Oh, and did I happen to mention that Ricki is a lesbian and Gigli likes to slap around the mentally disabled kid when he doesn’t like him? So, yeah, we’re meant to believe there exists some sexual tension between Jay-Lo and Affleck. The problem here lies not only in the performances, but also in Brest’s script. Gigli is just so unlikable and Affleck over-plays him to the point of mere idiotic caricature. Ricki has been given so many pre-packaged, oh-so-perfectly delivered monologues, we have no reason to believe such a person would ever get into this line of work. We have even less reason to believe she would fall for this guy.
Many stupid situations come up in the meantime. Ricki’s former lover shows up wondering why Ricki has shacked up with Gigli. Of course, since this product comes from Hollywood, this lesbian character is an obsessive stalker who slits her wrists right there in the apartment without giving it a second thought. Gigli and Ricki drive her to the hospital and we never see her again. The mobster also orders Gigli to cut off Brian’s thumb (again, don’t ask). They then have to mail the severed thumb to Al Pacino’s character, but I’ll get to that in a moment. So, Gigli and Ricki make a plan to cut the thumb off a corpse instead since they now kinda like the kid.
By now, you have no doubt read about Jay-Lo’s jaw-dropping sexual advances toward Affleck. She has finally succumbed to his biological need for sex. She spreads her legs and actually says the words, in this order: “It’s turkey time. Gobble-gobble,” the verbal equivalent to the nude hot-tub scene between John Travolta and Lily Tomlin in 1978’s “Moment By Moment.” A montage ensues that goes on longer than “Meet Joe Black—The Director’s Cut” and finally culminates in Affleck resting in Jay-Lo’s arms. His line: “God bless you, penis.” There is a reason why—a stupid reason, mind you—he says this, but I prefer not to get into it. Oh, okay, fine, he learns this phrase from Brian. Yes, the mentally disabled kid. I can’t make this up.
But that’s not even the half of it really. The last half hour of this movie reaches a level of sublime bad-ness that at one point I actually enjoyed myself. Al Pacino shows up for his big scene. Brest, in case you forgot, directed one of my favorite Pacino movies, “Scent of a Woman,” a great film for which Pacino won an Oscar for sometimes going slightly over the top, but in a way I found endearing. Here, he just goes over over the top. It’s as though he showed up on the set, looked around and said, “Hey, as long as you’re making a terrible movie, mind if I suck too?” And he did, but in a great way. I guess you could say I felt happy to have him wake me out of the coma into which this movie slapped me, but I wish he would have aimed that gun a little to his right and loaded a few more rounds.
Then the movie just goes on and on and on and on. Seriously, it ends about twelve times. I’m pretty sure after the Al Pacino scene came and went, the audience knew they had walked in on something they shouldn’t have. Sure, they should have known it earlier (way, way, waaaaaay earlier), but they just didn’t know better. They saw the names on the poster, they saw the loving looks in the eyes of the two leads on the poster and thought, “Looks cute. Let’s go.” I picture after this weekend many Jay-Lo CDs being set on fire and thrown into dumpsters across the country.But the question remains: Does “Gigli” earn its legendary status? Until the movie’s last half-hour I would have said ‘not quite.’ It’s bad all over, yes, but where the movie ends up and how we’re meant to feel once it ends up there is the stuff of bad movie legend. As I said before, it achieves a level of bad-ness that you just can’t believe a human being could write with a straight face. True, I have seen worse films this year. “Bringing Down The House” is a worse film than “Gigli.” “Bad Boys II” is a worse film than “Gigli,” but you have to remember that I described “Bad Boys II” as what it must feel like to be anally gang-raped by a movie. Draw your own conclusions.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8023&reviewer=233
originally posted: 08/03/03 01:48:04