Gigli

2003, Movie, R, 121 mins

Review

GIGLI
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Martin Brest's grotesque misfire of a light-hearted crime picture is torpedoed by the dismal lack of on-screen chemistry between Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, whose off-screen affair overshadowed the production. Mid-level gangster Lou (Lenny Venito), who has the ambitious idiot's contempt for unambitious lugs, orders dimwitted flunky Larry Gigli (Affleck) to kidnap Brian (Justin Bartha), the mentally handicapped brother of a federal prosecutor. Once Larry has Brian stashed in his off-the-shelf bachelor pad, he learns that Lou has hired a second contractor, the beautiful and brainy Ricki (Lopez), to make sure Larry doesn't screw things up. Instant mutual antipathy aside, Ricki and Larry are stuck with each other and Brian, whose adult body houses the mind of a pre-adolescent preoccupied with smutty rap lyrics and fantasies of "going to the Baywatch," because "that's where sex is." Ricki, a new-agey lesbian (how's that for a romantic complication?) with a trendy interest in traditional Chinese military strategy, thinks Larry is a vain, insecure, macho moron, which he is. Larry thinks Ricki (and, by extension, all lesbians) should acknowledge the evolutionary perfection of "the horn" and abandon her unnatural quest for compensatory satisfaction, which she won't. But they inevitably grow fond of each other and their captive, which complicates matters when Lou decides to increase the pressure on Brian's brother. Written and directed by the erratic Brest, this misbegotten mess drags when it needs to be snappy and is vulgar when it's trying to be frank and sophisticated. The spectacle of the near-naked Ricki striking sexually provocative yoga poses while floridly extolling the virtues of female genitalia is particularly mortifying, but it's only one of many horribly miscalculated scenes. Lopez's overly careful enunciation, which suggests a deeply stupid person trying to sound smart, raises the possibility that Ricki is actually no more intelligent than Larry, but in light of the way the story plays out that probably wasn't Brest's intention. It's hard to imagine the cast that could have made this smarmy, cringe-inducing material play, but Lopez and Affleck actively accentuate its creepy deficiencies while newcomer Bartha's technically accomplished performance is wasted on a plot device masquerading as a character. The noisy, one-scene cameos by Christopher Walken, Al Pacino and Lainie Kazan are a welcome diversion not because they're good, but because they hum with some kind of energy; the rest of the film is embalmed in the deadening juices of Affleck and Lopez's throwaway celebrity. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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