Gigli (2003)

Gigli1Ben Affleck and J-Lo react to Gigli’s reviews.

Time for some math. What do you get when you combine Ben Affleck & Jennifer Lopez with an incredibly shoddy script posing as a forward-thinking drama? Turn in your results, students, and let me grade your papers. That’s right everyone, the answer is Gigli (2003). This is the record-breaking film that notoriously swept the 2003 Razzie Awards. Director Martin Brest gave up on filmmaking after the movie was so poorly received by audiences and critics alike. But does the film deserve all the hate it got? Let’s take a look to see…

We are first introduced to Larry Gigli (Affleck) as a small-time hot-headed thug who does the dirty work for local criminals, kind of like Rocky without the muscles or intimidating stature. Gigli has forced a man into the dryer of a public laundromat as a means of shaking him down for money. He monologues about evaporating the guy and right off the bat, Affleck’s ‘intimidating accent’ sounds more like parody than a sincere dramatic effort. In the universe of the film though, the threat of the accent and the improbable evaporation must be terrifying because his shake-down technique seems to work. He gets the money for his boss, Louis (Lenny Venito).

Gigli4He didn’t have enough quarters though, so the evaporation threat was an empty one.

That laundry scene is all the time we get to learn about Gigli before the plot kicks off. He’s a wannabe street tough who yells a lot. Oh, and he’s constantly reminding people that his name is pronounced Gee-Lee, which rhymes with really. Pretty relatable so far. So Louis gives Gee-Lee his next job: in order to extort someone into keeping their mouth shut, he needs Gigli to kidnap this guy’s mentally challenged brother. And since he’s an idiot, Gigli blindly accepts the kidnap mission without looking into who is being extorted and why.

He travels to a hospital, where he picks up Brian (Justin Bartha), who, much like Gigli, is a near-offensive caricature of someone with autism. Brian screams out frequent obscenities, sings rap lyrics, and is very protective of his sunflower seeds. Gigli convinces Brian to leave with him by promising to ‘take him to the Baywatch,’ where the beautiful girls are, but what’s really not clear is how he manages to check the guy out of the facility. It doesn’t make sense that anyone can just walk in and take a patient out of a hospital without any explanation. That’s where editing comes in handy, because we can just cut around those pesky details.

So Gigli’s job is just to watch over Brian, while Louis uses his disappearance to scare Brian’s unseen brother. That means this gangster movie is really just about babysitting a mentally challenged young man. When Brian and Gigli get to his apartment, a knock at the door sends this movie even further off the rails: enter Ricki (Jennifer Lopez), a neighbour from downstairs who needs to use his phone. Sounds like the opening to a porn movie (not that I would know), but it turns out to be a front, a test. Ricki is really another thug assassin hired by Louis to make sure Gigli does his job properly. So Brian’s babysitter now has a babysitter of his own. Are we sure this film wasn’t supposed to be titled The Babysitter’s Club? If Louis didn’t trust Gigli to do the job, why hire him in the first place? Why not just hire Ricki instead to save a step? Now two people are doing one job… and we know this is about to become romance fodder.

Stuck on hold in a strangers house? Try an awkward leg stretch to ease the tension!

Of course, being the manly man that he is, Gigli puts the moves on Ricki right away, who ignores his advances during dinner. Though when your best pick-up line is to call the woman a cow, it’s not all that surprising when she says no. Then with Brian bunking on the couch and only one bed in the apartment, Larry and Ricki have no choice but to share a mattress. The forced sexual tension between the two performers is hilariously pathetic here, and Ricki finally reveals why she’s been so cold to him. She’s a lesbian, and has no interest in men. Lights out.

The next morning, another knock at the door throws both Larry and Ricki into a shocked panic, exactly as you would expect professional gangsters to behave. They hide Brian and open the door to reveal Det. Stanley Jacobellis, shockingly played by Christopher Walken. I don’t know why Walken agreed to waste his talents in this movie, but behold, there he is. Walken is looking for the kidnapped Brian, but not very hard. He spouts off some exposition about a federal prosecutor’s brother having gone missing, paces the living room a few times while speculating that it may be a form of blackmail to keep Louis’ boss, Starkman, from jail time. Walken’s hilarious performance may be the best thing in this movie, especially with the way he invites Gigli and Ricki for ice cream. The insanity of his inflection is just so delightful. Too bad the movie isn’t about his character. After providing all the information the audience needed though, the cop doesn’t bother to look around for the kid and leaves.

Gigli5Now there’s no possible way he could be in the next room, literally a few feet away from me, right?

Now Ricki and Gigli are a little spooked. Kidnapping someone didn’t matter to them until they found out it was a federal prosecutor’s brother. And so they continue to overreact. Knowing the police are onto them, the first thing they do is leave the house in a hurry. Hey, you think maybe the detective is still nearby? Or maybe he has a patrol unit keeping an eye on the place?  This does not seem like the right time to go out into public with the guy you kidnapped, especially considering that he is autistic, and his screaming will draw attention to you.

Throwing caution to the wind, they grab food at a fast food restaurant, where we get to learn a bit more about Ricki and how she solves problems differently than Gigli. Some kids near their table are blasting music from a radio and Larry shouts obnoxious threats at them to turn it down. Ricki has a slightly more subtle approach; instead she speaks calmly, threatening to rip their eyeballs out with one finger. Then she tells them to go to school and study hard. She chastises Larry for his angry approach to everything, and goes on a terrifying rant about her sociopathic ‘power-of-words’ method of resolving conflicts. Because there’s nothing angry or violent about eyeball removal. (4)Gigli gets the last word though.

I suppose they are no longer spooked by the police ever again, since they feel safe enough to return to Gigli’s apartment for the night. Hey, why don’t they hide out wherever Ricki lives? Or in a motel somewhere? Thankfully, though, the police never follow up with them again. Instead, the most idiotic moment in the movie unfolds while Gigli watches Ricki do seductive yoga poses as she monologues about her passion for the female form, the shapes and curves, and the similarities between kissing a mouth and kissing a vagina. No really, the comparison is made. I mean Gigli’s an easy target, but between the yoga and the words she’s using, she has to be aware how big of a tease she’s being to this guy. You can’t blame him for being a little confused with the mixed signals he’s getting from her. But of course, his advances are still turned down.

The next day we learn that kidnapping Brian has had no effect on the federal prosecutor, so Louis decides to up the ante a little, demanding that Gigli and Ricki cut off the kid’s thumb and ship it to his brother. It’s hard to care though, as an audience member, especially since Gigli and Ricki are criminals and the kidnapping was orchestrated to protect other criminals, so whatever this federal prosecutor is doing that is threatening to them is probably pretty noble. It’s hard to be on the villains side. Thankfully, it’s around this time that Gigli and Riki suddenly decide to grow a conscience. Tasked with cutting off Brian’s thumb, Gigli and Ricki instead take a digit from a cadaver at the morgue.

Gigli6Gigli uses a plastic knife to do this. Tommy Wiseau would have used a spoon.

Things change for Gigli and Ricki after this. I guess the little thumb adventure turned the two of them on because they have sex in the scene afterwards. There’s just something about removing appendages from dead bodies that makes homosexuals question their orientation.

If Walken’s appearance in the film wasn’t a surprise, this next one should be. Al Pacino makes a cameo as Louis’ boss, Starkman. He calls all three of them – Louis, Gigli, and Ricki – in to discuss the way they’ve been handling this job. First he shoots Louis for his incompetence since, wouldn’t you know it, the thumbprint on the thumb they sent didn’t match Brian’s. He gears up to shoot Ricki and Gigli too, but they talk their way out of it. They’ll take Brian back to the hospital and disappear, then they can simply deny their involvement completely. Somehow this convinces him to let them go.

As they drive Brian back to the hospital, they pass a beach where a film is being shot. Brian, whose been obsessed with going to the Baywatch throughout the entire movie, screams in wide-eyed jubilation and demands that they pull over. He has his dreams realized when he joins the film extras and dances with the pretty girls on the beach. Gigli calls the police anonymously and tips them off as to where Brian is. Then him and Ricki drive off into the sunset, living happily ever after, or something.

Gigli3Ben never considered for a moment that this film might embarrass him someday.

So is Gigli as bad as they say? Is it worthy of the reputation it has? It’s definitely a bad movie, with terrible performances and an awkward story that can’t decide on any one genre. In the end though it is really pretty much mediocrity that is it’s ultimate failing. It’s fairly bland and forgettable. Oh, and a little insensitive.

You see, Brian especially is a very poorly written character since his intelligence level wavers throughout the film, changing to meet whatever plot contrivances a given scene needs. Early in the movie, Gigli pretends a flashlight in his car is a walkie-talkie, and the flashlight tells him the Baywatch is closed. Brian accepts this, though he seems smart enough that he should realize walkie-talkies don’t work like that. You don’t put them up to your ear, for one thing, and any sound they make would be loud enough for them both to hear. Seconds after the walkie-talkie bit, Gigli uses his CELL PHONE to call Louis. Why not just use the cell phone in his Baywatch charade instead of the flashlight? The point though is that Brian should be clever enough to recognize a flashlight is not a phone. It’s even established later that Brian knows how to use a phone, when he calls an expensive long-distance Australian weather service on Gigli’s landline. The character suddenly becomes smarter to make a joke work, that Brian is racking up Gigli’s phone bill. The filmmakers are essentially dumbing  down the autistic character for a laugh at his expense. Now I’m not the most sensitive person in the world to this kind of thing, but I suspect this joke might be in poor taste.

Speaking of poor taste, this is the second time Ben Affleck plays a character attempting to convert a lesbian to heterosexuality, the fist being Chasing Amy (1997). They say actors need something to draw from, so maybe lesbian conversion is something Affleck has actually tried to do a number of times. But in this movie, Ricki is introduced as a fairly strong character, she is constantly mocking Gigli and his arrogance, his one-dimensional tough guy personality, only to drive off with him in the end. Like a lot of things in the movie, this character contrivance feels clunky and wrong. It’s a forced happy ending that just doesn’t quite match with who she is in the rest of the movie.

I wouldn’t recommend you watch this one because, with the exception of Christopher Walken, there’s just not many memorable failing moments in this film. It’s bad, but in a mediocre, almost boring way. The story flaws and character issues are plentiful, but they just don’t make me laugh the way something like Troll 2 or Birdemic does.


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