Somewhere, now getting his résumé together, is the Sony Pictures marketing exec who suggested these taglines for Gigli: “Find out for yourself if it’s really that bad” or “It’s like Rain Man, The Sopranos and Chasing Amy, only awful.”
Seriously, when a movie has had buzz worse than that from flies on week-old pork, the phrase “cut your losses” sounds awfully good.
Writer-director Martin Brest can’t be faulted for trying to dress up a romantic comedy in new threads. The film speaks about sex and parts necessary for it with very European frankness. But while explicit, the saucy talk coming from Jenjamin Afflopez has no snap, insight or humor. The only thing provocative about the dialogue is the laughs that result from how lousy it is.
For that reason, it’s hard to comment on Ben and Jen’s chemistry, as they have absolutely nothing to go on, although the look on Affleck’s face during a sex scene is one of vacant, perplexed idiocy. Maybe it’s because he realizes the come-hither line she uses is an instantaneous mood killer.
Brest has done some great films in the past, including Midnight Run and Scent of a Woman, so this is somewhat of a surprise. In fact, his reputation may have been why actors on the set kept a tight lip even as things went amazingly wrong. But his last screenwriting credit was in 1979, also known as the year in which most of Gigli’s jokes might have last been considered fresh.
Both in idea and execution, Gigli’s plot is ludicrous. Mob hitman Larry Gigli (Ben Affleck) is assigned to kidnap Brian (Justin Bartha), the mentally disabled brother of a federal prosecutor bringing charges against the family boss. The hope is that the snatch-and-grab job will coax the G-man to drop the case.
There is strong evidence Larry is an unintelligent misanthrope, but not that he can’t do his job. After all, he does have a guy in a laundromat dryer ready to spill all as the movie opens. Thus, it doesn’t make sense that he’s assigned a fellow killer watchdog named Ricki (Jennifer Lopez) to ensure he doesn’t screw up the job.
A lesbian who cites Larry’s penis as the reason he’s not her type, Ricki nevertheless becomes the object of Larry’s affections. And while they inexplicably tote their charge around in a top-down convertible, Larry and Ricki argue about sex, Sun Tzu and whether they’ll romp in the sack or not.
For all the bad things said about Gigli, curiously few have mentioned its musical score by John Powell. It’s one of the worst ever, like a sitcom laugh track pitched at the highest volume. Swelling strings and, eventually, choirs accompany scenes with Brian and a jaunty piano is a failed attempt to distract from awful monologues.
It gets weirder. Christopher Walken’s cameo, rumored to be the only good thing in the movie, is OK, but not classic. Al Pacino, who looks like Ron Silver imitating Al Pacino, turns in a performance in the finale that should get him committed in the psych ward to cool out for a while.
This laugh riot also works in a suicide attempt serving no purpose other than to get the players to a hospital, where the sound of a plastic knife cutting off a corpse’s thumb inspires Brian to sing “Baby Got Back.” The film’s inexplicable fascination with rap music from the late ’80s and early ’90s also suggests there are other Naughty by Nature songs besides “O.P.P.” still played on the radio and that there is hidden wisdom in rhymes from LL Cool J.
Critics who think Gigli is one of the worst films ever made don’t get out much. Had Sony changed their marketing, it still would be nearly every bit as bad as you’ve heard. But you could at least give Sony credit for having a sense of humor. Hey, it’s more than what the movie has.