Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 2, 2003)
Even before the dust settled, it became clear that 2003’s Gigli would go down as a disaster of epic proportions. The film received miserable reviews and attracted an incredibly small audience given the fame and popularity of its two stars. With a gross of about five and a half million dollars, Gigli snared only about 10 percent of its budget. It also seemed like a public declaration of disdain for the Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez relationship; no one wanted anything to do with the overly publicized pair.
With all that as a backdrop, it becomes difficult to observe Gigli on its own merits. The movie focuses on the title character, a low-level street criminal named Larry Gigli (Affleck). He works as an enforcer who rousts scum for the money they owe higher-level crooks like Louis (Lenny Venito). The latter hires Larry to kidnap Brian (Justin Bartha), the mentally deficient little brother of a federal prosecutor so Louis can blackmail him.
Larry takes Brian back to his apartment, where Ricki (Lopez) soon rings his doorbell. She claims to need to borrow his phone, but she’s actually there because of Larry’s reputation as a screw-up. Ricki’s also a hood, and Louis wants her on the Brian case as well to make sure that Larry doesn’t botch the job.
This sticks the three together. Ricki and Larry don’t get along well, though he soon decides to make the best of matters, mainly because she’s hot. However, when he attempts to seduce her, he finds himself without hope because she’s a lesbian.
Matters complicate further when the police come a-calling in the form of Detective Stanley Jacobellis (Christopher Walken). He gives Larry and Ricki the scoop on the case, which scares Gigli and sends them out of his apartment. They head to a few spots like a coffee shop and Larry’s mother’s (Lainie Kazan) house. Many more wacky situations ensue when Louis insists Larry cuts off Brian’s thumb and mail it to his brother, Ricki’s stalker ex-girlfriend Robin (Missy Crider) shows up at Larry’s place, and other elements interfere.
Despite all those shenanigans, the thrust of the story focuses on the burgeoning relationship between Larry and Ricki, and that creates its greatest failing. Actually, Gigli has many failings, but its hopes to generate heat from the J. Lo/Affleck pairing creates its main flaws. It seems that many real-life couples fail to generate chemistry on-screen, and these two follow suit. I suppose they could seem less engaging and more lifeless together, but I find that tough to imagine. They don’t manage to present any sparks at all.
It doesn’t help that their performances seem to be meant for two different movies. Lopez plays her part fairly straight, but Affleck usually adopts a faux tough guy persona that seems intended for some National Lampoon spoof. It doesn’t help that the terrible script afflicts him with some genuinely terrible dialogue such as his riff about how every relationship has a bull and a cow. Some of the lines elicit memories of Affleck’s Chasing Amy, but director/writer Martin Brest doesn’t have a way with words ala Kevin Smith. While Smith made Amy’s “deep-dicking” scene a hilarious classic, Brest’s dissertation on the penis seems limp and flaccid, for lack of better words.
Gigli also suffers from too many out of nowhere elements. The tone of the flick shifts abruptly at the drop of a hat, and characters behave in ways that make little sense. Perhaps this is meant to convey depth and dimensionality, but instead, it just seems nonsensical and ensures that the film lacks any kind of internal consistency.
Actually, I’d noticed a number of “that doesn’t make sense” moments within the first few minutes of the flick. The key one: if Larry’s a well-known screwup, why doesn’t Ricki get the job on her own? It seems absurd to pay two folks for the same task when one’s unqualified.
And the dopiness deepens from there. Brest manages to pull in useless cameos from Walken and Al Pacino that just make us feel sad. Bartha’s performance as Brian never gives us a real sense of the character’s abilities; one minute he’s a babbling, brain-damaged moron, whereas the next he looks like he’s gained about 30 IQ points out of nowhere. It doesn’t help that Bartha steals his performance whole-hog from Rain Man; Dustin Hoffman should sue for plagiarism.
If Gigli offers an actual story, I can’t find it. Instead, it substitutes random shenanigans in a scattershot attempt to entertain. This never occurs. The flick just flails about for two hours and makes us wonder who’ll repay us for the lost time.