If we've learned anything from Kevin Costner and his baseball
movies, it's that Gigli is the second picture in what
we can only assume will become a trilogy of "Ben Affleck turns
a lesbian straight" movies. Before all of that predictable
malarkey, the plot stumbles through some mess about a trial
and a federal prosecutor's retarded brother.
Affleck plays Larry Gigli - which "rhymes with really". Isn't
that a corker that should be repeated more than an SNL catchphrase
in a failing sketch? He's a bottom feeding street thug whose
chest holds a heart with a softspot like the head of a newborn.
He takes the dirty job of kidnapping Brian (Justin Bartha),
the feeb, for leverage on the trial, but his employer smartly
doesn't trust Gigli's intellect against the wily retard. So
he sends a mysterious lesbian named Ricki (Jennifer Lopez)
who must be smart because, in the parlance of the woman sitting
behind me, "she uses big words."
Really, the story is a lot like The Odd Couple, if
Felix had been really stupid and Oscar had been a moron and
then they kidnapped a kid with Down's. While slogging through
one talky faux-intellectual exchange on sexual politics after
another, our three core characters wander into contact with
four other characters who each get one scene and really have
no bearing on anything in particular.
About 30 minutes in, Chistopher Walken shows up as a cop
who seems to be hot on Gigli's tail, only to never be mentioned
again. Even later, Al Pacino shows up in a ponytailed rug,
so furious you'd think he had to sit through the first 90
minutes of the picture like the rest of us.
One of the worst things the picture does is play Brian's
handicap for laughs. It's not that I'm above a good mean-spirited
laugh at a retard's expense, but that ironic detachment comes
at a price. When the Farrellys make fun of a Corky, or you
giggle at a Kids of Widney High song, there's a certain guilt
that comes with that. When you watch The Other Sister
for the laughs, you look around to make sure no one is watching
you mock your way deeper into hell, but Gigli makes
no such apologies.
The script has Brian say crazy or silly things at inappropriate
moments in order to get the laughs that it can't squeeze out
of what should be a comedy goldmine. When a picture tries
to play everything else so straight, these aren't even really
laughs so much as they are simply enticements or at least
pleas to not sneak out to see what's playing in the theater
next door, which would most certainly have to be better.
Part of this problem is in Brian's introduction. The camera
follows Gigli through some kind of home. The camera glides
over the faces of many obviously mentally handicapped extras,
two of whom have filled a Connect Four board with about eight
winning combinations, only to settle on that of Brian. Brian
screams 'limited capacity' with his uncool shirt, downward
gaze, and sucked in lower lip.
First, screaming 'limited capacity' in a room with Affleck
and Lopez is about as difficult as sharing a secret at a Who
concert. And second, Justin Bartha is so obviously just playing
dumb that the big surprise at the end of the picture is that
he never reveals himself to be faking it like the much more
convincing Brian (Edward Norton) in The Score.
these actors is not really retarded.
Affleck doesn't do much better, adopting a DeNiro frown and
a Travolta accent. He seems to think he's doing Mean Streets
but it comes off much more The Experts. Some of it
is surely not his fault. Everything written about this picture
refers to both Gigli and Ricki as Hitmen, even though they
never do anything above mob errand boy duty.
At one point they are told to cut off Brian's thumb and mail
it as a threat. As the two are idiots, they mail a different
thumb without even once considering that concept of fingerprints.
One would think that two professional criminals would be fairly
aware of that kind of thing. Considering the gore this picture
plays with, they could have gotten more mileage out of sacking
up and doing the deed. If you're gonna play a retard for laughs,
why not just go all the way in and play a one-thumbed retard
with a constantly seeping wound for hilarity?
Maybe it's because the only theme this picture brings up
and actually sticks with is in direct opposition to sacking
up: it's America's favorite, the feminization of the male.
Of course, even with his pompadour and painted on tattoos
Affleck doesn't really have that much masculinity to sacrifice,
but he does give it all up for a woman who seems about as
committed to her lesbian lifestyle as director Martin Brest
is to directing a good film.
With her vocabulary and slow progress through Being Peace,
Ricki is written as the brains of the trio, against Brian's
heart and Gigli's passion, but Lopez slams that car into the
guard rail like a drunk with a blowout. Any word over two
syllables fits a little tighter in her mouth than her world
famous rear fits in her lowriders. She sounds like a 4th grader
reciting Damon Runyon.
Compounding this problem of overwritten dialogue, Ricki and
Gigli's boss Louis (Lenny Venito) has the clichéd gimmick
of "learning a word a day." Nothing is really as groundbreaking
as a lowclass character who's decided to better himself by
expanding his vocabulary to justify a lot of big words. One
might say "that gag's got whiskers on it," but that gag's
got dirt shoveled on it and worms going through it.
There is one shining moment in the whole film. In a nicely
grotesque shot, a dull scene gets an insert of a feeding fish
that has so many ramifications one could write a book.
What is Gigli? Is it a romantic comedy? No, not really.
Is it a crime picture? Hardly. Is it a good time? Not even
close. Gigli is a mess that starts out with an awful
script and fills it in with an awful cast. But on the other
hand, even this year has held far greater travesties.