Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 08/02/03 07:37:03

"All Come and Worship at the Feet of Our God Vanity!"
1 stars (Total Crap)

People often comment on how the obsession with (and power of) money (huge, overflowing truckfuls of money) can turn a potentially intriguing movie into a shitpile appropriate only for the lowest common denominator of devoted movie freaks. I see dozens of examples of lazy, shoddy filmmaking every year. But there's a force out there more devious and disgusting than the search for money, and it has had its hand in more historically wretched films than greed ever has. This force is Vanity, and if there's anything in the universe more nauseating than two mega-wealthy wankers who create a motion picture solely to show the world how wonderful they are, I have yet to come across it. For this weekend, though, we're offered "Gigli".

How many different ways could a movie go wrong? Thousands, probably, although few films in existence come as close to cornering the market on awfulness as Gigli does. This is a film that exists for no other reason save the astonishing egos and rampant self-admiration that Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck clearly share. This is a real-life couple so sure that we love them as much as they clearly do that they've created an entire 2-hour valentine to one another.

I find it hysterical that celebrities-in-love will try to sue those who snap photos at their mega-swank weddings, yet will then turn around and offer the planet a 124-minute reel of themselves begging for attention. "Look how I am with my shirt off!" says Ben. "Watch me try to enunciate words like "va-gi-na" while I spread my thighs for the camera!" coos J. Lo. It's like going to a party where you're required to look at (and talk about) the two hosts - and if you dare look away or change the subject - you're tossed out on your ass.

How a generally reliable director like Martin Brest got sucked down into this vortex of public masturbation is anyone's guess, and I pity poor Kevin Smith (who has the duo in his upcoming Jersey Girl and right about now must be pulling huge tufts of hair out of his scalp) for falling into the Hollywood Royalty trap - but here's the straight scoop: Gigli is so uncommonly bad that it may supplant Ishtar as everyone's favorite cinematic whipping boy.

I was about an hour into Gigli before I started wondering what it was about. Needless to say, that's not exactly a good sign. It seems to be about two mafia contractors who are hired to babysit the retarded brother of an unseen federal prosecutor. OK, fine. That could be a viable Act I conceit...but that's pretty much all Gigli has to offer in the plot department. This flick deserves an award for delivering the world's first two-hour one-act movie.

Set aside the astonishingly flimsy plot, and what we're left with is an unending series of sexual conversations between real-life lovers Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Imagine you've planted a microphone inside their limo and you're now privy to private celebrity conversations about genital warts and blocked colons, and you'd be halfway to understanding how aggravatingly smug, distasteful and obnoxious Gigli is. Then keep in mind that you paid eight bucks for the honor.

The flick stops dead for any number of awful reasons:

1. Every 40 minutes, Brest jams in a jarring cameo from one of his Hollywood buddies. Some see these fleeting moments as welcome respites from the ceaseless keening of the two leads, but it's much, much worse than that. Christopher Walken pops up in a scene that reminds us how damn entertaining the guy can be...without him actually doing much of anything entertaining. (It's a good performance only by default.) Lainie Kazan gets to do that "in her sleep" schtick of overbearing Italian Mama. And Al Pacino bellows and spittle-storms his way through a performance so clueless and irritating that you actually start to feel bad for the poor guy. (That Pacino's character is CLEARLY not on the same set as Jen & Ben - and that his parade through the room is done through the magic of CGI - gives one a clear indication of how shoddily constructed this movie really is.)

2. Jen wants to ar-tick-yoo-late. She's arguably the worst actress on the planet. Were it not for a winning smile and the world's plumpest rump, she'd be sharing a trailer with Tara Reid on the set of some amazing new direct-to-video tittie comedy. How this gal, among SO MANY great actresses, has earned this type of Hollywood power is simply too distressing a question to contemplate. Never before has one person accomplished so much using only her ass. And as far as Gigli goes, she's monumentally bad. In an effort to feign intelligence, Lopez talks slowly and melodically, as if every in the audience is a dribbling moron - and her character is nearly always seen reading a book. Yep, a book. I'll bypass her frequent dabblings in 'raunch talk' and one painful scene in which she tries to reference something in Chinese, but here's the deal: you won't see a more hatefully smug performance this year.

3. A silly retard! Nothing serves a film better than employing a potentially endearing character who can change his personality at the screenwriter's every whim. At one moment the couple's charge is shrieking and smacking himself scarily; later on he's nearly lucid. Most often he's just there for flimsy comic relief. Because nothing in the world is funnier than rap music delivered with a Down's Syndrome inflection.

I hate to join the unending parade of critical debasement this movie's earned. Knowing full well that it's the latest Mega-Monstrosity could allow me to approach the flick with a charitable attitude. Surely "I" could find something worthwhile in this movie, right? Er, no. Gigli is precisely as awful as everyone's been saying, and it's a sad state of affairs when a 2+ hour parade of blatant self-adoration can pass for an actual movie.

I've seen worse movies this year, but none in which the intended audience is treated in such a casually dismissive fashion. "Gigli" looks like a project that was intended for appreciation by precisely two people in the entire universe: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. For their sake, I hope they buy a lot of tickets.

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