Gigli: The Worst Movie of 2003?

J.Lo plays a lesbian; Affleck plays dumbbut they're no less unconvincing than the rest of this Mafia flop.

IN ONE OF THE MANY interminable, static monologues that accrue oh so slowly, like protracted snowfalls adding up to an ice age, to form the movie Gigli (which opens Friday, Aug. 1, at Meridian and other theaters), improbable gangster Ricki (Jennifer Lopez) tells improbable gangster Larry Gigli (Ben Affleck) that penises resemble sea slugs. She's explaining why she's a lesbian, impervious to Gigli's stumblebum, can't-shoot-straight charm. If he were smart, he'd reply, "At least my chin dimple resembles a vagina!" But he's dumb, and so is Affleck's clumsy, actorly attempt to portray a dumb gangster. I suppose penises do resemble sea slugs, but not as much as this movie does. Weighed down by the couple's off-screen romantic celebrity, a burden as crushing as a mile's worth of seawater, Gigli inches determinedly along to its foregone, and woebegone, lesbian-sellout conclusion. Ricki and Gigli first meet because their boss, Louis (Lenny Venito, who resembles an underbaked Joe Pantoliano), orders Gigli to kidnap a federal prosecutor's improbably retarded brother, Brian (promising newcomer Justin Bartha), to blackmail the prosecutor into dropping charges against their mob ber-boss (Al Pacino). Ricki is sent to make sure screwup Gigli doesn't screw up the job. Most of the movie consists of Ricki and Gigli improbably, flirtatiously squabbling while baby-sitting Brian. Brian's retardation is hokum, but it gives his character some real appeal. His lonely lifelong quest to join the babes of Baywatch in erotic frolic on the beach provides a measure of poignancy, jarring amid Gigli's soulless, inhuman expanse of faux emotion. In this context, Brian is like a less believable, more sentimental, less annoying version of Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man. Maybe this is an in-joke: Gigli director Martin Brest made the excellent 1988 Midnight Run, once associated with Hoffman, whose involvement caused the project to morph into two separate movies, Midnight Run and Barry Levinson's Oscar-winning Rain Man. So now Brest finally gets his own damn Rain Man. Yet while Rain Man was all about Hoffman's tics and ego, Gigli is about Affleck attempting to melt Lopez's frozen clam with repeated gusts of macho hot air. He extols the sea slug; she extols the jelly roll while doing yoga stretches that are supposed to drive us wild with desire but drive us wild with boredom, and their ultimate hookup is no less dull. I can't recall an action film with less actionerotic, comic, or gangsterish. Given one brief scene each, not even Pacino or Christopher Walken (as a detective) can enliven their stupid, pointless, improbable monologues. Calamitously, director Brest couldn't fire the writer of this Tarantino pastiche, because Brest is also the film's writer. Gigli's nadir comes when Ricki scares some high-school kids into turning down their boom box by telling themin yet another long, improbable monologueabout an Asian martial art known as "the rip that takes the past." She claims to know how to rip out people's eyes so fast that all their visual memory is yanked out, too. You'll walk out of Gigli wishing for the rip that takes the past two hours.

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