Gigli

In a Dark Wood

Long time, no type. For a while, I had a short list of movies I wanted to write about but I never got around to choosing one. Then, quite by chance, I was on the site UrbanDictionary and found that in 2005, Paul, Lackey of Jabootu, had added the following definition of the Great Horned One:

Jabootu: A mythological supernatural entity (demon, spirit, deity, etc.) whose purview is primarily to reduce the quality of films made under his influence; an anti-muse.

JOHN: “Did you ever see Gigli?”

MARY: “Are you kidding? Jabootu’s hand was all over that turkey.”

The only problem is—Gigli has never been reviewed on the site. This needed fixing. My course was set.

But that’s not all. One of the things that make bad movie watching so much fun for me is watching them with friends and family. The problem, then, I face is convincing those same friends and siblings to sit through a second movie. This has been increasingly tough and after the one-two punch of Dirty Love and Bloodrayne, there weren’t any takers for awhile. After Dirty Love, my sister “absolutely no way refuse” to watch another bomb of my choosing.

How can I be a bad little person and spring these things on them in the face of such wariness? Since we have spread out across the country, getting together to watch any kind of movie is tough. So, recently, when in California, at the home of Maddy and her housemate, I raised the idea of watching a “good bad” movie in Gigli. I just happened to have the DVD and hadn’t seen it. None of them had seen it but all of them remember it cratering as being laughably bad.

They just didn’t remember how bad.

We popped it in. Mad smiled. Rebecca smiled.  Joe smiled.  I smiled.  However, my smile was of a very different sort than all the other smiles.  My smile was more of a grin.  You see, I actually had sort of seen the movie before. I looked around and paused to savor the moment and to make sure that I would be able to recollect every fine detail and crease on their smiles because this was going to be the last of such smiles I would see that day.*

[*Editor Ken:  I should note that although I spared myself a full viewing of Gigli, I did procure a copy from the library I work at—which I had to put a hold on, because it was already checked out—so as to capture stills for Eva’s review. Even scanning through it was pretty gruesome. However, my initial trepidations emanated from the DVD box, which noted the film was 121 minutes. I know I keep beating this drum, but why do they think these movies have to be so frickin’ long? What was so wonderful in this horrible, horrible movie that they believed it would have suffered unduly from having fifteen or twenty or thirty minutes hacked out of it?]

Previews

Not too long ago in a galaxy not far enough away, there was fabricated a Hollywood couple comprised of one certain Benjamin Affleck and one certain Jennifer Lopez. For one not-so-brief stinking moment these two caricatures became Tinseltown’s 12-IQ-points-or-less checkout lane tabloid hood ornament.

Let your eyes fall anywhere on the racks between the Archie digests and the Snickers bars by the cashier at any big box retail circa 2002 and you would be informed that Jenny and Ben were seen kissing on the set of this or that show, or were stepping out to this or that Hollywood bender, or were considering getting engaged, or starring in a music video, or being dissed by another starlet—together. When the pair called off their wedding, they blamed the intense media scrutiny. (True love conquers all…except obnoxious photographers, I guess.)

Ben rode 1997’s Good Will Hunting until that dog would hunt no more. First came Armageddon, which I heard through the walls of cheap multiplexes during the summer of ’98 back when I was trying to watch better films at UM. It sucked but was, admittedly, for the turnstiles.

After that came Michael Bey’s revolting pseudo-movie Pearl Harbor in 2001, followed by the passable-for-its-target-audience Daredevil in 2003. Then the wheels came off with Gigli. More garbage followed: the bomb Jersey Girl (which I blame on the insanely overrated Kevin Smith), the bigger bomb Paycheck (so bad it was Director John Woo’s last U.S. film to date), and the daisy cutter Surviving Christmas (ranked by Rotten Tomatoes at 91st on the bottom 100 worst reviewed films of the 2000s, with a rating of 7%, and garnering nominations for three Razzies). No amount of manufactured paparazzi angst could mask this continuing stream of box office detonations. By the time the tsunami of suck slunk back into the sea, Affleck’s career was debris.

The other half of this couple was Jennifer Lopez. Lopez was the first person I can remember having a Hollywood “letter” nickname—“J-Lo”—from her second album, and it seems only natural that she would go on to be half of “Bennifer”—a mashup of Ben and Jennifer.

Here’s the thumbnail sketch. Bubbling up from a stint as a dancer for New Kids on the Block and the grisly TV show In Living Color, Lopez made her major motion picture debut in the 1995 action-thriller bomb Money Train.

She then starred in the biographical film Selena, a movie about the singer of the same name who was murdered in Texas, in 1997 (anybody here seen it?). Anaconda followed (anybody here not seen it?) and the reprehensible U-Turn (don’t see it).

Lopez then starred in romantic comedies such as The Wedding Planner in 2001 and Maid in Manhattan in 2002. Music and TV and a product line were sprinkled in between. She was a pretty busy person. Even so, on the surface there’s not much to dislike for those who avoided her in the ‘90s. But here’s a little exercise for you guys: type “Jennifer Lopez” and “diva” into Google. Every other hit is a description of Lopez behaving like a pretentious ass.

Admittedly, this is all mostly hearsay. However—and I’m not all that proud to admit this—I’ve been reading this stuff for years about her in places where I think the majority of the readership of this site do not frequent. Whereas Ben doesn’t rouse much animosity from me, Jennifer seems to embody a lot of what I wouldn’t want such success to turn me into. (Yes, I know, I don’t need to worry about it.) She sounds like one of those annoying narcissists who believe the whole world has to stop and think about her, and then when they do she puts her hands on her hips, huffs, and barks at us to think harder.

“Bennifer” started the trend of other celebrity couples being referred to by the mashup of each others’ names. Bennifer was everywhere if you were in high school or college like I was at the time. It was insane.  Then, as people tend to do when they get bored and sick of the people they put on the pedestal, the claws started coming out. Just before Gigli started filming, one could sense—almost imperceptibly—the wind begin to change and the barometric pressure begin to fall. Far offshore, the horizon darkened as the storm clouds of media over-exposure began to rumble a distant overture.

Meanwhile, our pair romped on the sunny beach, oblivious to the storm surge headed their way. They planned a movie together! Breathless articles splashed over the tabloids about the chemistry of the couple on the set. What was J-lo going to wear? Much speculation was made about the romance scenes to come. And, of course, the studio made things worse. Gigli could serve as Exhibit A in how, if you fiddle with something long enough in hopes of making it better, you will break it. (Something my step-dad, a thumb-pounding self-proclaimed “handyman,” could identify with.)

Ben told People magazine in 2007:

[The romance with Jennifer] was probably bad for my career. What happens is this sort of bleed-over from the tabloids across your movie work. You go to a movie, you only go once. But the tabloids and Internet are everywhere. You can really subsume the public image of somebody. I ended up in an unfortunate crosshair position where I was in a relationship and [the media] mostly lied and inflated a bunch of salacious stuff for the sake of selling magazines. And I paid a certain price for that. Then, in concert with some movies that didn’t work out…

Heh. There’s some understatement. By “movies that didn’t work out,” I think Mr. Affleck was actually referring to one movie in particular more than any other.

Let’s look at the DVD case! Gigli’s case has the promising banner, “A high octane romantic comedy that packs serious heat!” and it took me a moment to realize that statement wasn’t a quote from anybody. Or, rather, could be attributed to the unknown person who designed the graphics on the DVD case.  They couldn’t even muster a quote from some campus radio station that’s piped into the dorms?  (“Hey kid. There’s a case of Natty Lite in it for you if you say this blurb about our movie.”)

OK, let’s sit right back and hear a tale of how Hurricane Gigli almost trashed one career and damaged another. It’s a gangster movie! It’s a comedy! It’s a romance! In the end, it’s something no one wants to watch! It’s Gigli! Start wishing it was over in 3…2…1…

And now…our Feature Presentation!

We begin the descent with a blank screen and Ben Affleck’s voice saying the following:

You see, after all is said and done, the only thing you can be really sure of, the only thing you can really count on in this world, is that you just never f–king know. I bet the last thing you were thinking about when you were tying your shoelaces this morning was that there was a chance that by the end of the day, *this* day, those same shoelaces were going to be untied by somebody working for the coroner’s office…

OK, now we fade in to see Ben talking to the camera with an empty Laundromat in the background. Clad in a tacky designer club shirt, Ben completes his sentence, “…I’m right, right?”

Behind Ben, someone opens the door and starts to walk into said Laundromat. Ben looks over his shoulder and tells the interloper to leave. The guy in the doorway hesitates. Ben then loudly tells him to get the f— out. He goes away.

Ben sighs and turns back to the camera. The shot changes to show that Ben is speaking to some middle-aged middle-eastern looking guy who’s sitting in one of those big wall-mounted dryers that may have reduced your clothes to Barbie-sized back in undergraduate school. Ben’s character has apparently tied him up and stuffed him inside in an attempt at intimidation.

From Ben’s talk, we learn he’s an enforcer for a loan shark and if the guy in the dryer doesn’t fork over the dough he owes, Ben is going to turn the machine on. This leads to some pontification on how much hair and bone will be left when the dryer does its work and the debtor is reduced to, as Ben imagines, beef jerky.

OK. Let’s kick off this review with one of my weird asides. The guy in the dryer is gagged with a thin rag tied loosely around his head. But he mumbles in response to Affleck’s queries like he’s got a pillow over his head or something—even though it’s pretty obvious to me he could speak quite clearly if he wanted. Or even yell for help. Hey, now there’s an idea! Yelling for help.

Now, I’ve never had reason to test this theory first hand, but it seems to me that this is indicative of many a schlockly movie playing the woman-in-distress card—a little piece of tape over the mouth and voila! a silent damsel waiting wide-eyed for rescue by the mesomorphic hero.

Well, take it from this (air raid) siren: no Hollywood gag comprised of a little strip of duct tape or rag would prevent me from pitching a fit so loud you’d hear it from orbit. Note to female characters in Seven knock-offs: from now on, no more sitting in wide-eyed silent terror. (And, while we’re at it: no more helplessly pounding the back of the abductor while being hauled off to the cave and no more threatening the villain with a too-big pistol held in a shaky hand and then the safety’s on and its not even loaded.)

In any event, Ben continues his Tarantino-esque rueful banter with the guy in the dryer, asking him if he has change for a dollar and whether regular or permanent press would be better. Yo ho ho. Gigli brings the whimsy. This goes on a bit.

Also Tarantino-esque is the lack of police. It’s broad daylight. Doesn’t anybody see what’s going on through the big windows out front? Or how Ben, a big guy in real life, apparently man-handled this guy into the machine? How about the guy who started to come in? My sister’s an EMT. She says people love to call 911 when they see accidents or crime (unless they’re frightened illegals cowed by neighborhood homies); it’s exciting and it makes them feel important. Bank robberies and stuff like this during the day? The dispatcher can expect a deluge.

The guy in the dryer eventually speaks pretty clearly, admitting he has the money. Or at least half of it. Or something. Ben sighs. Just one of those days.

Next we see two men hovering on the street outside a sidewalk restaurant. We are apparently in LA. The two men, one in a suit and the other—a scowling slob I’m told by IMDB is actor Lenny Venito—in touristy clothes. Suit guy tells “Louis” that he’s really scared in an unconvincing manner.

Louis says he doesn’t give a f— if the other guy is f—ing scared and that he shouldn’t have let the f—ing situation get out of f—ing control and so on and on. Louis is saying all this loud enough that the people around could take dictation of it if they wanted. In the meantime, Ben Affleck’s character walks up. Louis tells the suit guy to “bring me something” tomorrow or he’ll send “Giggly” to get him, motioning to Ben.

“Do you amuse me? I can honestly say, no, not in the slightest. Not even a little bit. No.”

This little bit of Fisher-Price My First Expository Dialogue© out of the way, suit guy is told to vamoose and Louis then complains about life and stuff and calls Ben “Jiggly” again. Jiggly corrects Louis: it’s “GEE-lee”—rhymes with “really”. This is a running joke of the movie. People will call him Jiggly and he’ll correct them. They named the movie after this. When you’re done laughing at this inspired wittiness I’ll proceed…

That was quick. So anyway, it comes out that Gigli didn’t get all the money. More like half. And he didn’t hurt the Laundromat owner either. Louis is unhappy and surprised, asking rhetorically why Gigli isn’t the maddog killer he thought he was supposed to be. Gigli apologizes that this isn’t so. Louis says this kind of softness is against their code. Then after learning that Gigli can’t follow instructions, Louis gets to the point of the movie:

“There’s this certain individual who is creating very substantial difficulties for a close friend of mine in New York. This certain individual needs to be touched in some manner as to convince him of the error of his ways before he hurts other people, particularly my friend in New York. Now, this certain individual has a beloved relative with certain psychological defects. I want this relative gotten, alright? And I want him, for the time being, held on to.”

As it turns out later, the person to be kidnapped is the mentally disabled younger brother of a federal prosecutor who is, apparently, putting the screws to a figure in organized crime higher up the ladder than Louis. Do plans get any more stupid than this?

Where do you even begin to deconstruct the gaping holes it this idea? With the fact that the federal authorities would no sooner stop pursuing charges because of a kidnapped relative of a single prosecutor than they would grant furloughs to the Unabomber and Timothy McVeigh? How about that this would bring every federal agent west of the Pecos to bear on everybody in LA associated with Mr. New York? Or maybe with the fact that just one random guy, in particular this lunkhead with the silly name, is not going to be able to pull this off on the fly?

But wait! There are stupid plans…and then there’s even more stupid execution. We next espy Gigli pulling up to an institutional-looking building, maybe a school, in a flashy old Chevy convertible with the top down. Parking out front, Studly McNinja just saunters on in, apparently though the front door.

Now he’s in the day room of the hospital among a passel of mentally retarded and otherwise handicapped people. One helpful fellow points out the target, conveniently sitting alone on the far side of the ward. Gigli goes on over. No front desk to check in with? Security cameras? Locked doors? Metal detectors? Guards? Scriptwriters who can fog an EEG? I guess not.

Gigli ambles up on the young man, who’s sitting at a table intently handling some sunflower seeds. His name is Brian, but he ignores Gigli for a bit, focused on the seeds. Gigli asks if they’re poly seeds. Brian responds by blurting out something like the following in a rapid-fire faux “retarded” voice: “They’re not! You’re stupid! You must be the stupidest person, you pisshead pisser-f—ker!

So we got Rainman with Tourette’s?  Suddenly this movie stretches before me like an endless tomb.

Gigli tries to cajole him into coming with him. Brian declines, explaining in this herky-jerky (with emphasis on the latter) patois that he has to go “to the Baywatch.” Gigli eventually divines what he means—Brian thinks the setting of Baywatch is a place to which you can actually go—and offers to take him there.

Leaving with Brian must have been as easy as entering because next we see them driving around sunny SoCal with Gigli at the helm of the top-down convertible and Brian riding shotgun. Brian reiterates his desire to go to the Baywatch.

Gigli pretends a flashlight he has under the dash is an early ‘90s-style cell phone (!) or something and pretends to take an aptly-timed call on it wherein he learns that the Baywatch is “closed” that day. Brian buys this, apparently not knowing what a flashlight is. Despite the fact he looks and acts to me like the kind of guy that would take flashlights apart all the time.

Bob Newhart’s crown as King of Phone Humor can rest secure.

Amplifying the idiocy, Gigli then pulls out his real cell phone and calls Louis, telling him that he’s got the guy he wanted. Why didn’t he use the real cell when he…oh, whatever. Anyway, they agree that Gigli should take Brian back to Gigli’s place. After their talk, Louis has a thoughtful look and then hits another number.

So here we are at Gigli’s crib. Just a big apartment with lots of windows looking out at the inner courtyard, none of the blinds are pulled. Our dynamic duo strolls in, presumably after moseying across the grounds for all to see. Gigli looks to me like the kind of guy who likes to be seen. And, because he’s got some guido hottieboombalottie going on, he’s going to get looks. This is the guy you want trying this stunt?

After a little painful banter and drama, with Brian loudly complaining that he wants to go home, there’s a knock on the door. Gigli realistically worries that the neighbors are upset about the noise and have been alerted to trouble, as the walls in this place are apparently about as thin as the apartment in Office Space, and that his big crime adventure is about to take a nasty turn.  (So…why’d you bring Brian back here again? Why didn’t you call Louis for instructions? Why didn’t you plan this out better? Why did Louis allow him to wing it like this? This bothers me.)

These questions go unanswered as Gigli hesitantly cracks the door to see who it is after calling out that they were just “kidding around.” On the other side of the door is a sweetly smiling Jennifer Lopez, clad in a lowcut hootchie outfit. She asks admittance to Gigli’s by-the-hour passion pit to use the phone.

At first, Gigli says no, but Lopez ratchets up the smiley blinkly eyes and Gigli eventually folds, and he lets this stranger into his apartment. That Gigli is dumb enough to get played like this barely believable to me, but why would Lopez’s character do this? Why not just say she’s working for Louis? In real life, a man in Gigli’s position is going to be primed for violence and he’s over twice my size.

Once inside manchild’s crib, she says hello to Brian, who comes wandering in from the kitchen, suddenly happy. What is this guy—a kidnap victim—doing walking around in full view of a stranger? Plunking herself down on the coach, Gigli let’s her go through with the phone ruse, during which she stretches provocatively before an approving Gigli.

After the “call” Gigli smoothly dials up a line of his own—“I’m sorry, I gotta ask: do we know each other?” She’s replies huskily replies, “Not yet.” and introduces herself as ‘Ricki.’ Gigli introduces Brian as “Bob” in return, to which Brian barks, “That’s not my name! You’re stupid!” Then they argue in front of Ricki: “You’re name’s ‘Bob’!” “No it’s not, doghead piss fart!”

“Yeah, I just noticed this big top thing on the table here, and I was wondering if there was any chance that I was in a bad movie, but one inside a better movie. Right, like Inception. No? Are you sure? Well, crap.”

Ricki wants to talk to our Gigli in another room. As she walks elsewhere, Gigli hails Brian, “I can’t f—ing believe this! This is an unexpected bonus! Who would have thought you were a babe magnet!? You’re better than a f—ing dog!” Does he really think this woman appeared from nowhere because of Brian? Brian of course replies, “You’re a dog, you…doghead pissfart!”

It’s amazing how retarded this has gotten, how quickly it has happened, and how removed it is from any connection to how real people would act.

Once off a bit from Brian, Ricki says that she heard that Gigli was a little bit of a f—kup, but that she’s amazed at how much of a f—kup he really is. Gigli says he doesn’t know what she’s talking about. (F—kups never do.) Ricki finally tells him that she knows Louis and that Louis didn’t think he had the brains to pull this off without help. Slipping into deny-no-matter-how-obvious-the-lie mode that parents of all young children know, Gigli claims he doesn’t know a Louis.

Despite the idiotic stonewall, Ricki goes on to explain that Louis thought that things might go more smoothly if two “independent contractors” were put on kidnap detail so that they could watch each other in addition to Brian. Hey Louis, why’d you wait until after Brian was fetched before bringing in Ricki? And why’d you not call Gigli yourself and explain that Ricki was coming instead of risking a violent first encounter? Why not have Ricki do the kidnapping in the first place, since she’s smoother?

Gigli does call Louis, as we see Louis explain the obvious to him and threaten to excoriate anybody who messes the job up. Apparently Louis was under some (unexplained) time constraint and had to get Brian kidnapped like right quick, so he had to go with the junior varsity squad. Great idea Louis—bring in the B-Team on the fly when you are faced with the task of kidnapping (as we’ll discover) the brother of a Federal prosecutor. Why are you in such a rush anyway?

After Louis hangs up on him, Ricki explains that her reputation (as a thug? mobster?) is pretty solid and that Gigli needs to get it together. Oh, and do you have any decaf or herbal tea? This is all too much for Gigli, who launches into a hysterical diatribe. Yep—this is the guy you want on the job:

Let me tell you something. OK, I don’t know who the f—k you are, but I don’t work like this. You got that? You wanna talk about reputation? If by some f—king miracle long shot you haven’t heard of my reputation, let me tell you who the f—k I am! I am the f—king sultan of slick, Sadie. I am the rule of f—king cool. You wanna be a gangster? You wanna be a thug? You sit at my f—king feet! Gather the pearls that emanate forth from me! ‘Cause I’m the f—king original, straight-first-foremost, pimp-mack, f—kin’ hustler, original gangster’s gangster!

This bellowed out with the pimp mack daddy hand jive he learned on TV. You can almost see Affleck rehearsing this one in the hotel’s bathroom mirror the night before the shoot. Back in moronland where this movie lives, surely Brian heard this yelling. Perhaps so did the neighbors, who also might be watching through the big glass windows. Maybe this is something you should think twice about revealing to them? Anyway, Ricki deftly defuses the situation by going to get her bags.

Time for Brian to continue his part-time parody of being mentally handicapped. After Ricki departs, Brian inquires of Gigli, “How many cups of your own spit do you think you swallow every day, Larry? I think it’s thirty-five cups.” Gigli tells him to act normal for a minute. Brian responds with blurted insults and vulgarities. Gigli escalates in kind, eventually pushing Brian around some.

At this point, Ricki re-enters with her bag and tell Gigli to stop. He loudly tells her off. She threatens to kill him if he doesn’t leave Brian alone. He tells her to stop telling him what to do. She threatens to kill him if he doesn’t leave Brian alone. He tells her to stop telling him what to do. She threatens to kill him if he doesn’t leave Brian alone. (Seriously—they go around the mulberry bush about four times on this, loud enough all the while for the neighbors to dance to it if they wanted.)

Yeah, this plan is working out great. Even the Plot-O-Matic 3000™ can’t get them through without senseless conflict. Good one Louis. Good one, Screenwriter/Director Martin Brest.

So next we watch them sitting ‘round the table having supper. Nothing like listening to patter while people shovel it in. In a nanosecond you know boredom is on the menu. Gigli wonders why he has never seen her before and inquires what Ricki charges for her services when she does, like, gangster stuff. She, in turn, let’s on that ‘Ricki’ isn’t her real name. (So? It is to us.)

Gigli wants to know what it is and will try to find out periodically throughout the film. This bit doesn’t work because we don’t know her. In contrast, in Seinfeld, we were interested in what Kramer’s first name was because we had time to get to know the character. Here, we just met the character and aren’t invested in her. This bit falls flat and gets flatter each time they hammer on it.

Speaking of flat bits, the pattern of the following kerfuffle may sound familiar: Brian, on cue, cuts in with some of his twitchy complaints about the savory microwaved repast they are scarfing. Gigli barks for him to shut up and to stop acting like a retard.

Ricki huffs at Gigli to leave Brian alone and that “it’s not his fault”—whatever that means. Then Gigli provides the topper, saying, “In every relationship, there’s a bull and a cow. It just so happens that in this relationship, I’m the bull, and you’re the cow. Alright?” <Points to himself> “Bull.” <Points to Ricki> “Cow.”

I hate these people. Gigli? Well, obviously. Brian and his Hollywood-coated affliction? Yup, him too. I realize they’re trying to play Ricki up as nice to make us like her, but this is a kidnapping and she’s supposed to be a bone thug 4 life or something. Things like this in real life aren’t pleasant, the people who do them aren’t nice, and the victims don’t have a good time. Ask our friends south of the Rio Grande about that.

After placating Brian with promises of “going to the ‘Baywatch’” in the morning, they later begin to settle down for the night. Brian is allowed to sleep on the sofa. After laying down, he pulls the cover up under his chin like, I don’t know, an actor pantomiming a mentally handicapped adult pantomiming a child, and tells Gigli to read to him.

Gigli has nothing to read and so picks up a bottle of Tabasco which happens to be on the end table and reads to him the label while Ricki looks on approvingly and Brian snuggles to the sound of Gigli’s droning about Avery Isle and Tabasco peppers.

“Hey! HEY!! Wake up, you bastard! If we have to stay awake through this, so do you!!”

Not dumb enough for you? Try this: Ricki begins to crawl around on the floor while unrolling her sleeping mat—this thin bamboo (?) pad that Gandhi would have turned down for not being comfortable enough.

While she’s down there, Gigli looks on approvingly, particularly at her backside which is sort of covered up by lowriders held up by the fact that they’re on so tight, I think they were sown on her. He tosses out that they could always share his bed…you know…in a professional capacity. Hey, can’t hurt to try that line. Admittedly, nobody’s stupid enough to fall for it, but…

Cut to a shot of Ricki in his bed. Yes, Giorgio, she really did take him up on “sleep in my bed” offer even though she (apparently) holds no interest in him. (Future Pip: since they’re both attractive, movie logic demands eventual sex of course, because that’s how Hollywood shows that people love one another.) Do I even have to point out that in anything even remotely resembling real life, no one in her situation would even consider this? And that any hope of said fancy swallowed its own tongue and died during the “bull” and “cow” soliloquy earlier? I’d rather tumble through a pen of hungry Dobermans in a kit made of beef jerky than do this.

Cut to Gigli, posturing in front of his bathroom mirror in his undies and tee. He gives himself a little pep talk in the mirror, screwing his face up in a sad attempt at sexy. Waving a dumbbell around and flexing, he hoots something like “I’m the bull and you’re the cow and if you f—k with the bull…you get the HORN!” Ugh! Flex! Feel the burn!

This is really embarrassing to watch. I felt symbiotic humiliation for Affleck just seeing this. It’s so shameful that I found excuses to avoid this scene when going through the movie piece by piece later. Folding laundry, getting the mail, checking the Blackberry, anything but watching this. Wow.

“OK, we’re in bed. What’s Step 2?”

Oozing into bed clad in a red satin robe while laugh-out-loud bad “romance” music blares, it’s pretty obvious (shocker!) that he’s having visions of them gettin’ Gigli wit it.  She responds to his oafish advances with, “May I suggest that you not allow the seeds of cruel hope to sprout in your soul.” (Who talks like that?)

Our hero responds with, “I don’t know what that means but it sounds beautiful.”

“It means I’m not your type.”

“What about me isn’t your type?”

“Your penis.”

Turns out she’s gay. The sultry music dies suddenly. I’m surprised they didn’t Foley in a descending slide whistle or that losing noise from The Price is Right. Speaking of games, this movie is playing a game of “Betcha Can’t Top That!” with us. What could possibly be more stupid than agreeing to share the bed with a third-rate Lothario while you’re right in the middle of carrying out a serious felony?

I know! How about sharing the bed when you’re a lesbian! At any rate, after dissing him lightly a little more, Ricki puts her book away* and rolls over to go to sleep. This apparently takes the lead right out of his pencil, because he doesn’t harass her any further. I find that hard to believe.

[*Editor Ken: In the interest of being further nauseated—not to mention pandered to—I should note that Ricki is shown reading Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, the sort of safely ‘multicultural,’ middlebrow Oprah Book Club-esque sort of read meant to established someone as being ‘deep.’ This, naturally, is meant to contrast with Gigli’s earlier admission that he doesn’t have a single book or magazine in his entire apartment. They’re the Original Odd Couple! (I’m sure Ms. Lopez also meant for this to reflect well upon her, presumably dreaming of being asked if she really read the book during an appearance, complete with faux horn rim glasses, on Charlie Rose. She would then mock-casually regurgitate some pap she memorized off the author’s Wikipedia page.)]

What’s even dumber than that? Top this: they’re both in the bedroom while the (unrestrained) kidnap victim who has expressed a desire to leave is…on the sofa out in the living room right next to the door! My hand had the imprint of my nose on it from all the facepalming I was doing at this point.

What’s even dumber than that? Top this: the next morning, we see Brian dialing the landline. They let this guy loose around the phone? (*facepalm*) Gigli walks in, sees him and panics. But it turns out that Brian was only calling time and temperature in Australia. Whew! Dodged a bullet that time.

Gigli admonishes Brian on the cost of international calls. Then he hands the phone back to Brian and walks away. (*facepalm*) Then he walks into the next room where we find Ricki sitting on the sofa. She was apparently within earshot of Brian when he was fooling around with the phone and did nothing. (*faceplant*)

He loudly announces to Ricki, “Just wanted to tell you, you know, just to get straight over that whole thing last night. You know, I don’t want you to get upset or nothing. But that’s it, though. Don’t be coming back though. It’s a one-time offer. One shot with me, and I’m out!”

[Editor Ken: She needs to “get straight”? Heh.]

Hey Gigli, you’re the one who sounds upset. As the recipient of a couple similar proclamations from thin-skinned losers back in my high school and college days, this is actually a fairly realistic portrayal what guys like Gigli try to pull when they get turned down. Maybe they are all reading the same be-an-Alpha-male websites and articles.

Personally, I think it’s also an ego salve. Something to convince themselves and their posse that it wasn’t they who were rejected, but rather that they were doing the girl a favor by offering up the chance for sex. Whatever. Note to dudes: only idiots fall for this. Being (nicely) rejected is normal. Trying too hard to protect your precious ego in such a juvenile way is transparent and pathetic.

Hark! A heavy knock on the door!

“Are you expecting someone?” Ricki asks stupidly as she’s lounging in an easy chair rejected by IKEA for being too cheap-looking with a book in one hand while her other hand twirls her hair. She’s a criminal mobster veteran alright.

The knocking waxes into pounding, doorbell ringing and shouting. Gigli runs over to the peephole. Oh no! “It’s a cop!” he rasps to Ricki as he runs into the kitchen to shoo Brian into the back room. Why didn’t he immediately go to Brian when the knocking started? Why is Brian even…oh forget it.

After pushing the protesting Brian into the bedroom and closing the door, Gigli finally lets in…Christopher Walken playing a detective. Ah, Chris, welcome to the Temple. As the Nun of Jabootu, let me show you around. Ken’s putting the Embarrassed Established Actors™ up in the balcony this week. Make yourself at home.

The DVD special features call Walken’s character “Detective Stanley Jacobellis”. Apparently, Gigli and the detective are old acquaintances. And yes, the detective has a cup of coffee and is wearing a rumpled suit and a tie that looks like he had to beat it to death before donning it, thanks for asking.*

[*Editor Ken: Needless to say, said cup is both empty and spotlessly clean. I know it would be a bit more laborious during multiple reshoots, but I never understood why they don’t give actors cups with actual liquids in them. You can always tell such cups are largely empty from the weightless way they get moved around, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a single actor convince me he’s actually sipping something from an empty one.]

“Yes, I did really stick a watch up my ass. I’m a method actor, that’s what we do. I’ll tell you something else, though. I still had more fun working on that film than this one.”

Jacobellis tells Gigli, “Your door isn’t thick enough to pretend you are not home when you’re home!” (What does this mean? Has he been eavesdropping? If he had, he would have heard Brian and…oh forget it.)

Turns out the good detective is seeking the lowdown on the street about the missing brother of a federal prosecutor in New York who is key in bringing down a mafia uberboss named Starkmann. And since he knows that Gigli works for Louis who works for this faceless Starkmann, he wonders if Gigli knows anything. After a shrug and a dumb look from our hero, Jacobellis begins pacing around the apartment, looking into the kitchen and around the living room.

He’s in the bedroom! Go to the bedroom!

Sorry. It suddenly occurred to me that if he found Brian, this movie would be over. During the course of this cameo, Walken looks distracted and jumpy, mumbling his lines and shuffling around. I think he had second thoughts about agreeing to do this while they were filming.

[Future Pip: In addition, while I have zero evidence to back this up, I smell some desperation by the producers at the inclusion of the Walken cameo. He plays no future role and his cameo could be removed with nary a ripple in this cesspool. He only serves the plot by heightening the importance of Brian by mentioning the federal prosecutor angle.]

Credit Where It Due™: Christopher still manages to put on an acting clinic compared to these two. I was entertained by this scene.

Well, anyway, while Ricki looks around nervously, Gigli continues to (badly) act dumb. Jacobellis finally sighs and says that, yeah, yeah, he knows: Gigli doesn’t know nuthin’ about nuthin’. Then he let’s out with this:

You know what I’d love to do right now? Go down to Marie Callander’s and get me a bowl of pies, some ice cream on it, mmm mmm good! Put some on your head, your tongue would slap your brains out trying to get to it! Interested?

Hey! Make some sense! I guess Walken is known to the older generator as a wildman/oddball type. And I guess this is him playing to that crowd. After looking over Ricki and Gigli again with no small measure of disgust, he tells them that if they hear anything to call him. Then he leaves with a final withering look, like a parent that had just delivered a lecture to a boy and a girl after discovering them playing “Doctor”—or in this case, “Actor.”

Gigli immediately pitches a little fit about the trouble that’s been thrown in his lap. A federal f—kin’ prosecutor! Heavens to Betsy! (He doesn’t say that.) Brian comes out of the bedroom and proclaims that he’s hungry. Ricki admits to knowing about who Brian was and suggests that they go to a hotel or something. Gee, I hope Det. Jacobellis isn’t listening at the door again.

After some more banter and a walk down the stairs, we see them in the convertible again. (Good thing Det. Jacobellis wasn’t in the parking lot when they left.) Brian again announces that he wants to go to the Baywatch. Gigli pulls the flashlight/walkie-talkie thing again and has a fake conversation explaining that the Baywatch is closed again but may be open tomorrow.

After raising her eyebrow at this weird ruse, Ricki asks about ‘the Baywatch’. Brian explains with an awed look in his eyes that the Baywatch is where the pretty girls swim. Ricki takes a bit to catch on that Brian believes this place is real, but she thinks the whole thing is sooo ca-yhoot once she does.

Then we get a priceless moment when the mystery strings swell—it’s the Penis Theme!—and Brian looks with rapture into the far distance and wistfully attempts to proclaim with the same majesty used by Oskar Schlinder in the closing factory scene, “I think that’s where the sex is, I think so. I think that’s where the sex is.”

And Jabootu smiled and He knew His works were good.

A diner of some kind. Gigli and Ricki sit in a booth while Brian, with knit cap, is shown standing in the foreground of the shot staring with awed continence at the splendor of…a picture of a server with big boobs presenting a big order of grub. Meanwhile, a confusion of skaterat-looking teens lounge in the corner. One of them cranks up a boom box. Brian starts to hop around to the beat. Gigli is annoyed (as I would be) and tells them to cut it. They ignore him.

Ricki, sensing a confrontation, suggests that conflict would draw unwanted attention. Think so? Seeing as they are in a public place with a kidnap victim. But that would be smart and Gigli will have none of that. He again yells for them to turn it off and they—shocker—respond with shouted insults and invitations for him to come over and try to turn it down himself.

In a hushed voiceover: Its status threatened by the young upstarts in the pack, the silverbacked gorilla must defend his territory and place at the top of the hierarchy. Watch as he first beats his chest and then rises with his limbs akimbo, displaying his size while hooting in a pitch lower than that of the youthful AXE-slathered beta gorillas.

Luckily, we’re spared all that because Ricki, after admonishing Gigli again, says she’ll handle it instead.  Approaching the group, she addresses their apparent top dog, suggesting they all need more “people skills” before turning the radio off herself. Then she goes into a weird bit about something called “Tai Moi Chai” (I googled the name for the spelling) which is supposedly some Asian language word for “gouging out an eye with your finger.”

Next she suggests that she can do it in a way that will also remove the visual cortex so as to destroy the victim’s visual memories. (Doctor Evangeline: Sounds like nonsense—the primary visual cortex is in the back of the human brain.) You can almost hear the real-life equivalent of these punks crying out for some Tai Moi Chai in any theatre that played Gigli. Then comes some falderal about not underestimating people and don’t f—k with me and to study hard in school and blahbitty blah.

Enter the Dragon!

At any rate, we’re back on the streets with the crew driving around with the top down. Gigli asks if she really knows the martial arts she just threatened. She says it was a bluff. Then she decides it’s time for some talk therapy for Gigli because he seems “depressed”. This is particularly distressing to her because boys aren’t allowed healthy outlets for their emotions and blah blah blah.

Luckily, Gigli’s cell spares us much more of this. It’s his mother. She wants him to come over and help her with something. Unluckily, it’s to administer an insulin shot. How? Well, next we see a middle-aged woman’s two well-aged Virginia hams pressed right into the camera and Gigli is about to drive home the plunger of a syringe filled with insulin. Her mottled flesh oozes around the groaning string of a pink thong as he needlessly pinches some of the jiggling Jell-o tissue at the injection point. (Doctor Evangeline: It’s interesting how age makes bristly hair grow in places you might least expect.) She wants him to hit a lower spot with the needle and they argue about this while her buttocks continue to ripple away from his pinching fingers.

Joe’s comment at this point, blurted out as he leaned back from the TV and put both of his hands on his head above his ears, said it all: “Oh! Where is God now?”

After she heaves up her too-tight jeans and fastens her groaning silver chain link belt, there’s some more banter between them, and then a knock on the door. Brian is on the stoop doing the gotta-pee shuffle from foot to foot while Ricki explains he needs a restroom and that she wanted to meet Gigli’s mother in the flesh. (Ha!)

That’s a great idea! Maybe our two felons could take some pictures together with the Gigli family, post ‘em on MySpace, and then go out on the town with their kidnap victim. Dinner and dancing, maybe. Who knows where the night could lead to? Good times.

After Larry Gigli lets then in, Mama Gigli fawns over how beautiful Lopez is and tells little Larry not to f— this budding relationship up and Lopez bats her eyelashes at Affleck and coos “She thinks I’m beautiful!” followed by cutesy giggling and please just shut up, all of you. Larry brays, “Ah, mah!” and acts all embarrassed. Soon it comes out that Ricki is gay. Ms. Gigli tries for a wry smile spiced with a twinkle in her eye and blurts out that the whole homosexual thing doesn’t mean Ricki still couldn’t hook up with Larry.

Then, putting on her sex therapist hat, Mother Gigli opines that she can tell Ricki has had sex with men before, but understands that men have “limitations” and only another woman can scratch those itches. Ah! *forehead slap* I guess that explains her kooky lesbianism.

Ricki simpers stupidly while this bloated specimen clad in things you would find in the “lost and found” box at the mall in your city that has the most shootings in the food court sagely explains that she wasn’t always just Larry’s mother but also quite an “experimenter” in her salad days. Wow, life rode this woman hard and put her up wet. After a wink that scrunches up half her face, she ends with, “Life’s not just black and white. Keep an open mind because you never know!” Larry looks like he’s about to heave at this revelation. Speaking of which…

At this point in the initial screening, I took stock of the reactions around me. Everybody had a wide-eyed uncomprehending look, maybe like the one I hear you get when the Texas state trooper shines his flashlight through the window onto the sweaty proceedings in a rockin’ F-150. (Help us out here, Dalton.)

Thankfully, we find ourselves back at Gigli’s place in the evening. We’re in the kitchen with Brian, where he’s on the phone again to Australian time and temperature. Another dressing down by Gigli follows, again for making costly international calls. Brian explains that he likes the sound of the woman that makes the recording, which seems reasonable to Gigli, who then just lets him keep doing it. Stupid and repetitive, all in one hard-to-swallow horse pill.

(Future Pip: I hate to keep sounding like a fortune teller in a hospice, but the next scene is worse then the last. However, this time there’s a lot of sex talk and since Editor Ken runs a family site, I wanted to give you warning. Turn on the safety lamp and check your airpack; we’re about to mine a deep vein of prime Immortal Dialogue ore here.)

Going from the idiocy going on in the kitchen to the well-lit bedroom, we see that Ricki has opened a yoga mat right next to a big window and is doing various demonstrative stretches in her tight exercise outfit in full view of all the neighbors.

Gigli saunters in and, faded facsimile of Casanova (Assanova?) he is, watches with raised eyebrow while she innocently goes about with her provocative display. After some ogling at the splendor of the somewhat lithe Lopez, he asks, “So I’m not your type, huh?” before inquiring about whether it’s true that she’s been with guys and why she ain’t interested  no more—is it really because of their “shortcomings”? Um…get out and none of your business.

“Other than the fact that they give terrible head?” Ricki instead replies.

“Eh? See? Right there that tells me something!” Gigli rocks back on his heels. “The guys you been with don’t know how to bring home the pearls when they’re diving for oysters,” he says with a little shoulder rolling ginny body English. Here comes the flood:

“When it comes to pleasing a woman. Your girlfriends…they’re at a natural disadvantage. They may try hard but they’re not backed up with millions of years of genetic programming. Engineering. Instinct. See…nature has evolved man for that purpose. To satisfy. Lead the pack. That’s why these lesbians are always spending all their dough on sexual appliances and….”—makes rowing motion with his hands—“…erotic monkey wrenches. Trying to compensate for what they don’t have, what they’re not getting. The penis. Yeah, that’s right. Its very design tells you everything you need to know. Forward motion with advancements. F—ing progress into the dark, deep mysterious unknown. It’s like adventure-seeking, frontier-conquering, obstacle-eradicating.”

[Doctor Evangeline: I’d actually like to see an erotic monkey wrench that entails making eggbeater motions with your hands—but only in a museum.)  All of this penile palaver is played with Gigli pumping his arms and shadow boxing. As the late, great William Safire might say, he’s no Big Man on the Hippocampus, but he’s a lot more entertaining than the emo snivelings which inhabit mumblecore movies, I’ll admit.]

All the while, Ricki continues to go through her motions, alternating between mild looks of disbelief and smirking. Yoga apparently soothes the mind because all *I* heard during the initial screening of this in my house was raucous hoots and astonished omgs. This here is comedy mithril. Ricki tells him he’s entitled to his opinion. Then it’s her turn…

“Let’s consider women for a minute, shall we? Their form—neck, shoulders, legs, hips. I think pretty cool. Now as far as your famous penis goes, the penis is like some sort of bizarre sea slug or like a really long toe. I mean it’s handy, important even but the pinnacle of sexual design? The top of the list of erotic destinations? I don’t think so. One’s first impulse is to kiss what?”

The Guitar of Tenderness begins to strum here, and Gigli himself starts to look a little misty, suggesting that this is supposed to be moving for the rest of us. It’s just flabbergasting. She goes on to answer this rhetorical mystery for us:

“To kiss the lips. Firm, delicious lips. Sweet lips. Surrounding a warm, moist, dizzyingly scented mouth. That’s what everyone wants to kiss. Not a toe. Not a sea slug. A mouth. And why do you think that is, stupid? Because the mouth is the twin sister—the almost exact look-alike of—the what? Not the toe. The mouth is the twin sister of the vagina. And all creatures big and small seek the orifice. The opening. To…to be taken in, engulfed. To be squeezed and lovingly crushed by what is truly the all-powerful, all-encompassing. Now if it’s design you’re concerned with, hidden meanings, symbolism…power, forget the top of Mount Everest. Forget the bottom of the sea, the moon, the stars. There is no place, nowhere that has been the object of more ambitions, more battles than the sweet, sacred mystery between a woman’s legs that I’m proud to call… my pussy. So I guess this is just my roundabout way of saying that it is women who are, in fact, the most desirable form. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Uh…no. God, listening to her is like tapping into the internal monologue of an ADD-addled teen with some $5 words mined out of the Shift-F7 function in Word salted in. Gigli appears mesmerized, however, like Affleck is trying to channel the emotional memory of watching his mother die, as he murmurs, “I agree.” Ricki, all satisfied at her crushing of Affleck’s sea slug, coos, “And so do I.”

The dialogue in this movie, which apparently the writer thought was so deep and touching in places, is actually so insanely puerile and insensate it makes the prattle between Ryan Seacrest and the other announcers on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve seem like the third hour of a dissertation defense on some recondite point of Talmudic dogma applied to Fourier transforms in the fifth dimension. I can’t believe anyone watched this with a straight face. Throw in some sing-songy rhymes and we just heard Ode to a Flowering Vagina by the ghost of William Topaz McGonagall.

“Wow. You’re, uh, like, all smart and stuff.”

Wow. Well, moving on to later in the evening, we see Brian playing with the phone again. Except this time he dials up Louis.  There’s some initial back-and-forth “humor” between them of the “Who’s this!?” and “No, who’s this!?” variety before Louis further braids his movie noose with the un-PC question, “Is this the retard?”

Gigli picks up the phone. Instead of Louis absolutely flipping his lid that Brian is on the phone with anybody (this is the brains of this operation?) he instead instructs Gigli to cut one of Brian’s thumbs off and to send it to some address. When Gigli expresses some squeamishness, Louis orders him to “put the clamlicker on!” (a slur against lesbians) and further berates him.

He said “retard” and “clamlicker” in an R-rated film made after 2000? He ought to just write “Dead Man” on his forehead in his favorite shade of gloss. Louis is another one of these villains who constantly gets on his henchmen with abuse. Readers here will know the type. Mr. Venito doesn’t know how to chew scenery convincingly. (Maybe he’s too good an actor.)

Gigli is quite sensibly shook up over this order. He’s a mook but nice, I guess. Brian comes back. Gigli tells him to go to bed. He doesn’t wanna, so Gigli has to read to him again, this time from the label of some toilet paper while Brian fades out on the couch. Ho ho. Gigli then retires to bed with Ricki.

Ricki peppers him with questions about his friends. Turns out he doesn’t have any. She frets about how he should get out more. He says he likes to keep to himself. I’m getting impatient. Gigli is 121 minutes long, almost a marathon by romantic-comedy standards, and that multitude of wasted time weighs heavily during too-lengthy interludes like this.

Here’s another one: the next morning, we get a little scene where Brian puts a rap song on a boombox and does some herky-jerk shuffle around the kitchen. This is mildly less awful for a moment…until he grabs his junk and spontaneously bursts into props to his “homies” in his imaginary audience. I’d rather see him spontaneously burst into flames.

This “cute” sequence further cements his status as an Untouchable we know is not going to lose his thumb.  As for Bartha’s performance in this—when the script allows him to be more than just a catchphrase-dropping plot device—I’m not a mental health expert, but his portrayal of a (part time) mentally disabled person is no Montgomery Cliff from Judgment at Nuremberg. However, in a real movie, I bet Bartha could pull it off.

Gigli groggily wakes up. Ricki is in the shower. (Calm down, nothing to see.) Gigli eventually goes to the kitchen and turns down the beats and admonishes him about disturbing the neighbors. (What about the audience?) And Lo! there’s a knock on the door. Gigli, after checking the peep, opens the door to a rude blonde woman who starts in with, “Who the f— are you?”

Gigli asks, “Who the f— are you?”

She walks past him, calls his guy-flavored pad a “s—thole” and, when Gigli, quite sensibly given the circumstances, says “Lady, I think you’re in the wrong place!” she answers with “No, I think you’re in the wrong place.”

She greets Brian with an “Oh! And who the f— are you?”

“You’re the f— are you!” (?)

“What?!”

“Huh?”

Brian and Larry are confused, as is Pip. (Pip is also bored.)

“Wait, wait…did you just say Martin Brest is a worse director than he is a screenwriter? ‘Cause you’re way off, lady. WAY OFF.”

At this point, Ricki comes out of the bedroom, clad in a towel. Recognizing the intruder, she exclaims, “What are you doing here?!”

I won’t go into the profanity-laced yelling that goes on next. It turns out that this woman, Robyn by name, is a just-broken-up-with lover of Ricki. Robyn is histrionic, put out that Ricki is hooking up with a guy and at one point threatening to knock Gigli out with a round house kick to the head.

I’m not a guy but I know exactly what I’d say to that if I were: “Listen you blood sucking blonde beanpole! Speak to me like that again and I’m going to get busy with your “partner” on a big pile of your burning clothes! Is that clear?”

Later, while discussing the movie, I asked my step-bro Dustin and his bud Cody what would happen if a girl first barged into their apartment in Beaumont and then claimed she could take one of them right in front of another girl he was hot on. They thought it was a stupid question. “Oh, she’d be dead. I’d tear her apart! And I’d walk because it’s my apartment!” was the immediate consensus.

It’s obvious that this woman is a plot device. We’ve just been introduced to a quandary for the two protagadroids, namely the thumbcutting slated for the too-cute-to harm thumbsucker. How are we to get around this? Thought exercise for you, yes YOU, drear reader: how can Ms. Plot D. Vice get us around the amputation that is threatening Brian? Whatever you come up with, I bet it ain’t any stupider than what is coming…

Anyway, Mademoiselle deVice declares that she’s going to kill herself. “And you care! You care!” she cries as she grabs a steak knife and slices her wrists, holding them up for Ricki to see like streaming red trophies.

(Doctor Evangeline: Easy call here. We just went one step over the borderline. And those arteries wouldn’t dribble; they would jet.)

Well, silly story short, they get her to a hospital. They never do explain how Robyn knew Ricki was at Gigli’s place. Outside of Brian, the only other person who knew Ricki was here (by name, anyway) was Louis, so maybe Louis startled the witch. Dunno.

Cut to Gigli and Brian sitting in the convertible which itself is in an opportune spot, facing the big windows looking into the ER. And look, Robyn has been triaged and is being treated in a timely fashion. Ricki is kindly watching over Robyn and apparently did the talking (“What’s wrong with her wrists?” “They’re attached to an idiot.”) as the ER staff people do their thing.

Ricki eventually gives her a hug and leaves. Gazing at her, as the Guitar of Tenderness begins to strum, Gigli confesses that Ricki’s perfect and that he’s wildly infatuated. Me? I feel like I’m in the waiting room of the damned—for people killing time until depression-laced ennui finishes them off. And then this happens:

Brian: (looking wistfully at Ricki as she emerges from the ER) “Yeah, she’s like the ones on the Baywatch: they make my penis sneeze.”

Gigli: (looks over at Brian with dawning admiration while the strings of the Penis Theme swell in the background) “You know, you have a really good sense of humor.”

Brian: (sighs) “God bless you!”

Gigli: (visibly touched) “Thank you, Brian.”

Brian: “No, stupid! I was talking to my penis! God bless you penis!”

Does this mean he just…? Oh my. OK, did anyone need to hear that? Anybody? I need a hug. Ken? Somebody?

Thankfully, Jennifer Lopez comes back. (There’s a sentence I’d never thought I’d sincerely type.) She informs us that Robyn will be alright. (That’s good to know as she’ll never again appear.) Then Ricki takes Larry aside and explains she can’t go through with mutilating Brian. Larry is doubtful about this sudden appearance of a “contractor with a conscience” (his words) but after some cajoling, he says “sure” to her plan.

That’s not good enough for her. Is it “sure” or “yes”? See, there’s a big difference involved:

See, if I were to ask you to move my sofa for me, you’d probably say, “Sure”. But if I were to ask you to look deep into my eyes, and tell me from the bottom of your heart if it would give you great pleasure if I were to suck your cock for twelve hours, if I may be so presumptuous, you’d probably say “Yes”.

It’s just mortifying. Instead of asking if that twelve hours can be spread over time (you can see the gears working in his head if you look close enough), Gigli just whispers, “Yes.”

And so here we are inside the hospital proper. Ricki is distracting a hospital worker with one of the most sadly contrived ditzy acts I’ve ever seen someone fall for—she even “accidentally” spills coffee on the attendant—while Gigli slips into the morgue cooler…with Brian. Why is Brian here? You can’t trust him to wait in the car but you can trust him to come along while you commit some felonies in a hospital? Over all these forehead-slappingly idiotic hi-jinks plays the Organ of Chicanery. Our cue to be amused. Thanks.

[Doctor Evangeline: most hospital hallways—particularly secured ones like this—and nearly all morgues have security cameras.]

Once in the cooler, Gigli instructs Brian to stand facing the corner and to close his eyes, which Brian does with little question. (Doubtful) Gigli then takes a plastic knife, like the ones you get in a box of KFC, and proceeds to cut the thumb off a cadaver. (Ridiculous) After a bit, Brian starts to rap out some oldie hip hop song I can’t make out. Aren’t we all amused at what zany scenes our heroes find themselves it? The thumb eventually comes off with a snap.

(Future Pip: There’s so much stupid with this (fingerprints, etc.) that I’m tempted to keep on railing against the movie. However, Al Pacino will drop by in a while and do it for us. Seriously. Keep reading…)

Well, now cut to a FedEx store or whatever. The morons ask the girl behind the counter if they can buy some self-shipping materials. They ogle the merchandise for a bit with her help and select an envelope.

When the clerk delivers it, Gigli merely turns his back to her and plops the bloody thumb, wrapped in tissue, into the envelope, seals it and, after addressing it, hands it back to the counter girl for her to ship. Yeah, don’t put the thumb in the envelope out of sight of the clerk or anything, don’t wrap in it plastic to prevent leaking, and don’t use a self-drop box.

While Gigli is addressing the envelope, the girl behind the counter is ogling (like only an extra after getting explicit instructions from the director can) her some J-Lo merchandise. Her simpering smiles turn into this slightly creepy “lusty” stare so that Gigli can eventually notice.

Oh, and look! The counter girl is wearing a rainbow colored top!  My God. They’re everywhere. Can we get any more ham-fisted here? Will the next lesbian appear in a Pendleton shirt and a lavender sandwich board with a lambda symbol on it and belt out an Ani DiFranco song for us? Yahoo.com would certainly find a way to make a headline out of that.  After Rainbow Girl slinks off with the envelope, Gigli asks if Ricki knows her. Ricki replies with “Close personal.”

“Garsh, you sure are purty! A-hur, a-hur.”

Outside, after piling back into the Moronmobile and turning back towards the mean streets of the naked city, it becomes clear that Gigli has a burr under his saddle about all this Sapphic salaciousness around him that’s leaving him out in the cold. He blurts out:

You know something? You’re right! It is sadness! It’s sadness, and I’m f—ing sad! Know why I’m f—in’ sad? Because I got this f—in’ beautiful, sexy, gorgeous, heartthrob-o-rama, f—in’ smart, amazing, bombshell, 17 on a f—in’ 10-scale girl sleeping in a bed right next to me! And you know what? She’s a stone-cold dyke! A f—in’ untouchable, un-have-able, unattainable brick wall, f—in’ Dykasauras Rex!

Hearing someone say how wonderful Jennifer Lopez is, is a tough sell. Will she make my whites whiter? My brights brighter? Gigli’s clearly trying to be funny and slyly vulnerable and very Alpha, but his patheticness can’t help but shine through. The lewdness, the lameness, the absolute loserishness of it is too much to bear, even as the Guitar of Tenderness tries to tell us otherwise as he continues on with about how his life sucks and so forth.

This is as close as they can get to real conversion among the protagodroids? Once the discussion sails past the placid harbor of introduction-background-bravado and enters the open sea of this-is-really-who-I-am, this script is hopelessly adrift.

Well anyway, now it’s nighttime again back at Gigli’s Casa los Perdedores. First we establish that Brian is busy watching TV in the living room where he sleeps on the sofa. First time I watched this, as soon as we saw the third wheel was taken care of, we all said about in unison: “Love scene coming!” Sure enough, we cut to the bedroom.*

[*Editor Ken: In fact, Brian’s watching something involving chimps dressed up like people, maybe an old episode of Lancelot Link. In any case, I can say without exaggeration that I would trade what he’s watching for what I’m watching in a heartbeat. Nor would I think I’m alone in this.]

Ricki’s on the bed demurely watching Larry fumble around at his dresser clad in a wifebeater. She’s in this frumpy robe. I’ve seen sexier outfits on astronauts. Another weakness of this movie is the lack of opportunity for Lopez to do a little glamour, which is one of her fortes. I’m kinda confuzzled about this. She plays this jeans-and-jacket tough gal throughout. I realize Cherries in the Snow is probably out, but a little foofiness and froufrou and flouncing would have given me something to consider, like flipping through an Elle before Dr. Credits sticks his head into the waiting room of languor known as this movie and calls me back, and particularly since I stopped looking at manchild after about the third time he opened his mouth.

A couple of such missed opportunities litter Lopez’s career. Like Oliver Stone’s U-Turn, which I hope you never saw, where one of the big revelations is J-lo’s sexpot character is making it with her father, played by scaly dinosaur Nick Nolte. Way to go, J-lo. I was so sketched out watching that I felt like Beelzebub had stuck his tongue in my ear, and I never looked at her fashion spreads again.

Anyhoo, Ricki asks, “Do you think your fingernails need trimming?” Larry holds his hand out before him to examine. Aha! Gotcha! She pounces: “I’ve heard it said that those who are balanced more toward the masculine of either sex check their fingernails this way.” (Demonstrates looking at nails by curling fingers up with palm facing inward.)  “Whereas those balanced more toward the feminine check them like so.” (Holds arms out, checking nails from back of hand, like Larry just did.) Then she says that despite the tough guy stance, Gigli is wrestling with some strong feminine leanings.

Having played her role as stereotypical empty-headed temptress, Gigli obliges by playing stereotypical meathead who’s defensive about any evidence, however stupid and contrived, that he’s gay. Overheated denials, thick explanations, the whole bit.

“Are you gay?”

“NO! I am not gay! Why do you look at me like I’m gay?  I’m not gay! I AM NOT F—IN’ GAY!”

Apparently she’s only part time gay herself as she crawls over the bed and kisses him and says, “I thought you wanted to be my bitch.” Then, as moron boy gawks at her—Affleck goes through this movie with a look that makes me think someone needs to hang a “Sorry, we’re dead” sign on his brain—she reclines back and lets fly with the immortal invitation to him to snorkel around her Lesser Antilles at she spreads her legs and waves one knee like a saloon door:

“It’s turkey time…gobble gobble.”

There’s more!

“Now you talk the talk, you know I’m expecting you to walk the walk.”

And more!

“Show me what I’ve been missing my whole life: lay some of that sweet hetero-lingus on me!”

[Doctor Evangeline: If you get an erection lasting more than six hours from taking Cialis, please consult this movie.]

Ben Affleck: The Go-To Actor for movies about fungible lesbians.

At this provocation, little Larry at first starts to crack, turning briefly into a stammering fool, but the Guitar of Tenderness begins to plink and this apparently reroutes the blood as necessary so we slither into The Love Scene. There’s some rolling around, some close ups of hands clutching the blankies, dial-tone expressions, some slo-mo, and a sounding of the Meaningful-Strings-of-Gettin’-It-On—but no skin at all; it’s like they’re bundling Amish—before we cut to them cuddling under the cover.

Maddy was the first to notice the blanket is maybe one of those ‘L’-shaped covers you get in movies: it covers the boobs of the female star the studio choose not to pay the boob tariff to while only covering Bulk Vanderhuge from the waist down. Pillow talk that would be rejected as “too pathetic” by a convention of plushies then ensues:

“God bless you penis,” whispers Larry to his little Larry.

“Did you sneeze?” Ricki murmurs.

“Oh…nothing.”

“Every relationship has a bull and a cow, huh?”

“That’s right. Mooooo! Mooooo!

Yup. Larry is lowing like a Hereford while Ricki giggles. That did too just happen. Could you cram some more of the movie’s catch phrases in there? However inappropriate they may be? Thanks. She informs him this was a one time deal and that once this gig is done, she’s gone. Whatever.

The next morning the phone wakes our couple. It’s Louis. He tells them to meet him someplace. He also yells at Gigli for no reason, further ensuring his future kiss off to Dis. As they’re leaving, Gigli needs to give Brian something to do so he gives him a bowl of cereal and tells him to stay inside and not touch anything. I’m sure that will work.

On their way to wherever, Gigli says that he has this fantasy. Ricki asks if it’s making it with another guy. NO! I AM NOT GAY! He just wants to “go someplace nice” with “no scumbags tellin’ me what to do.” Hmm. (You could move out of LA for starters. There is nothing to do in that town except drive around and marry people you don’t care about.)

Well, before this goes any further, Louis pulls up with a sneer and they follow him into Mr. Starkmann’s palatial abode. (Mr. Starkmann being the New York poobah apparently facing big time.) And, yes, that’s Al Pacino, the Ayatollah of What-Am-I-Doing-Here-Olah, himself, greeting his guests with forced vivacious politeness and welcoming them inside. Please! Please come in and have a seat while the Embarrassed Established Actor™ performs for you!

“You tell Martin that I appeared in his little movie, as he requested. But if I don’t get the photos and the negatives, things are going to get very ugly.”

When Moe, Larry, and Curly are seated on the oh-so-90s sectional, Pacino begins to ramble…and ramble…and ramble some more, working himself up toward an angry, arm-waving crescendo. He works the conversation into a couple lines about thumbs, so even the dumbest amongst us know where this is going.

Eventually he reaches into Louis’ coat and pulls out his pistol. More rambling. Then he asks if Louis would like to go to medical school. Then he shoots Louis in the forehead, and contrary to what you might imagine would come out based on the plot (I thought banana-flavored marshmallows), actual brains splatter the aquarium behind him. (Somehow, the aquarium stays intact.)

After filling Louis up with premium leaded, Starkmann scornfully adds, “Students there can always use someone to learn on!” (Doctor Evangeline: You know, murder victims are usually autopsied, so they probably won’t be learning on Louis, because they probably would remove his organs. Alright, you don’t care. ) Then, more menacing rambling from the former Don Vito Corleone while we get a close up of a fish eating some brain matter that splashed into the tank. (How?) Now THAT’S entertainment!

Before we continue, I ask: was this bloody scene a good idea? In a (lobotomized) rom-com? Particularly given the bloodless antics that came before? This is just another example of how misguided Gigli became after too many people messed with it. At this point in the initial screening, Rebecca pointed out how American this movie is: People graphically getting their brains blow out? Yes, please! Some skin shown during a love scene? Absolutely not!

Well, Pacino turns on Larry and Curly. WTF were they thinking kidnapping the brother of a federal prosecutor? And WTF were they thinking that no one would notice that the prints on the thumbs don’t match?  Gigli sits there like a big doofus.

Finally, Ricki argues that the thumb cutting idea was too stupid a command to follow and that they decided, as professional thugs, not to obey that order. (Whatever. The so-called “mafia code” has always struck me as a moronic plagiarism of Bushido.) She goes on to suggest that Pacino let them take care of it and if he’s still not happy, they can talk about it some more later.

Talk about it where? In prison? With the public defender assigned to Gigli and Ricki? Talk about it with the Federal Marshals which would be following Starkmann around at this point? How about with the guys listening to the wiretap? Unbelievably, Pacino goes for this idea. Maybe he did it to get out of the movie because we next cut to another drive-around scene with Pacino sadly gone forever.

On the way home from Pacino’s place, Ricki suggests just dumping Brian back at his institution and then disappearing. Gigli more or less agrees, blathering about leaving the pimp mack daddy gangsta life altogether and…

Cut! I was pacing the floor and telling myself this wasn’t happening around this point. You can’t let Brian go, you thrice-cursed and thrice-damned idiots! He’s knows your names and descriptions!! ALL OF THIS WILL GET BACK TO CHRISTOPHER WALKEN’S DETECTIVE WHO ALREADY HAS YOU PEGGED AS SUSPECTS!!! What kind of numbskull would even suggest such a retarded idea?

[to which the entire Jabootu Student Section chants down at me: “Jen-ny! Lo-pez!” (clap clap clapclapclap)]

Why is Gigli two hours long? Because when you only have like half a dozen scenes like this, every single moment is gold.

Okay folks, fine. That’s the two minute warning. Start the clock. All they have to do is ditch Brian someplace, resolve the Gigli/Ricki romance, and we’re free. After all, any tension remaining in this movie has just been torn away with their departure from Pacino’s hideout. How long can this go on?

(Future Pip: About half an hour, that’s how long. Seriously. A half hour of emotional incontinence and fridge-magnet conversation awaits you. A half hour of a shoelace-flossing script and termite-infested acting. Truly a lesson in tediousity.)

As they’re driving, Brian starts to rap another oldie that’s so dated I can’t remember ever hearing it. Then Ricki starts giving Brian advice about dating. Then Gigli joins in. That’s good, patronize the poor omega male and waste our time in the process. At a gas station, Gigli fishes for Ricki “real” name again. She flakes, saying that she couldn’t be with him and that once this is over, they’re over and so on.

And then they’re back on the road. (Why didn’t the movie just end?)  Ricki further explains her plans, which consist of Gigli dropping her off on the coast someplace. (And not pick up her stuff at the apartment?) Gigli informs Brian that they’re taking him home. Predictably, Brian now wants to stay with them. Then there’s some more driving around.

Finally, they reach the beach. As they cruise along, they pass a movie shoot. Brian thinks…yes!…this is the Baywatch! Halleluiah! The deeply uninspiring soundtrack swells with choral grandeur. I guess we should be moved at the wonder and the splendor. Behold the Baywatch! All will love the Baywatch and despair.

Brian pleas for them to stop. Gigli is hesitant. Ricki joins in the cajoling. Should they stop? Shouldn’t they? The argument continues. The plusses and minuses are weighed. All things are considered. Voices drone. Authorities are cited. Time passes. Death is wished for. (Whoops. That was just me. Sorry.) Finally, they stop the car at a vantage point looking over the shooting.

Brian is itching to go down and get involved somehow. Because…that’s where the sex is, after all! (Um, where’s set security? Particularly with all this equipment.) This leads to another needlessly long exchange wherein Gigli forbids Brian from going down to the shoot. Finally, Gigli veers off for a payphone. After getting the brother’s name from Brian, Gigli calls his office at the FBI and clues them in on Brian’s whereabouts.

Back before Brian, Gigli starts in with the fact that his brother might be coming by soon enough and that Brian is “a good kid” and that Gigli’s sorry for all the trouble and such. The Piano of Meaningfulness begins to plonk away in D minor.

Ricki then tells Brian to take care of himself and gives him a peck on the forehead.  Brian then gives Gigli a peck on his cheek and tells him to take care of himself. Aw, he’s emulating them. He’s just like their little brother now! And haven’t we all learned something about what really matters and God bless us all everyone. It’s all making me a little misty.

But wait! Let’s do the rehash minuet once or twice more. Larry asks Brian if his fingernails need trimming. Brian turns his palms inward and claws his fingers to look. Ricki smiles. Gigli warns her not to say anything—defensive about the gay thing again, you see. The meaningful music clues us in that this is supposed to be a sign that Brian’s life is about to turn around and that we should be moved and all.

Finally, Brian shambles off down toward the beach because that’s where the sex is. OK, we’re about done, right? No! There’s another scene, and then another and another, to unspool like an entire case of brewtality shook up good and opened in the face of the audience—one agonizing can at a time—before the Names of Those Responsible  roll.

Here’s the first—after inquiring about Ricki’s plans for leaving, Gigli hands her the keys to his car. He gave up his ride? Does he even have another car? I don’t think so, judging from the apartment décor and his need to kowtow to cartoony vermin like Louis. This is about as likely as the NAACP sponsoring NASCAR. She turns him down while some strings and a slow bass line kick in. He insists—he wants her to have it so it will take her wherever she wants to go in life and he wants to change his image and it’s just all so beautiful. Ricki gives him the Precious Moments eyes and takes the keys.

His one condition is that if she ever hops the fence over from lesbian land and wants some man action to give him a call. They kiss while the strings swell and the guitar strums and the surf pounds. Then she drives away in his beautiful old Chevy while he looks on meaningfully and it’s just all so beautiful. He turns back towards the beach…

…where Brian finds himself in a crowd of other people about his apparent age. Every guy is buff except Brian. Everybody is in beachwear except Brian. The chief chorographer is yelling into a bullhorn for people to pair up boy/girl so they can commence whatever this thing is about. Everybody is just milling around. Wow. If it’s this loose—with no plan as to dance partners and set places to begin whatever routine it is they’re filming—then this promises to be awful. Hey—maybe they’re filming From Justin to Kelly!

Eventually, standing next to Brian is a blondie in a two piece. She’s fairly cute. I doubt she’d be left alone like this. And I really doubt she’d take any kind of interest in short, skinny, obviously-afflicted Brian. But they kind of stand awkwardly together while Gigli watches from afar and a playful tone enters into the strings in the soundtrack.

Like so many, many young men before him, Brian first experienced love while doing the Jilly-Jalla-Jellyfish.

Brian makes his move, opening with a twitchy, stuttering, “Nice weather we’re having.”

She replies by running away from this sketchy-looking loser with “Yes, isn’t it?” in an Australian accent. (I can’t judge Australian accents, knowing no one from the continent.)

Brian comes back with a memorized string of chatter from the Aussie weather service he was calling several times earlier in the movie, something about clouds moving into Queensland or something equally Australian. God, this was the resolution of that stupid bit?

Well, unseen bullhorn guy yells “Action!” and a pulsing club soundtrack kicks in. The girl starts dancing and motioning Brian to join in with her. He eventually does—doing what Mad called the “Cattle Prod Hop”—as the Allegro Strings of Triumph soar over the beats and Gigli is watching with a tear in his eye (seriously) and it’s just all so beautiful. So, in short, the retarded guy and the blonde, perhaps sensing they have something in common, do hit it off. Insert your own joke in the space provided: ____________________. Thanks. Exit Brian.

Larry turns away as the strings take a more somber tone. He walks huskily away from us, framed in a medium distance shot. And Lo! the Chevy is back, along with the Guitar of Tenderness. Unfortunately Ricki is driving it. She announces that her real name is ‘Rochelle.’ Larry asks if she’s going to hop the fence and she counters with a maybe sometime and they gaze at one another and it’s just all so beautiful.

Um…I hate to break up this wonderfully touching repartee, but the POLICE ARE COMING!

She eventually offers to drive him out of town (um, how about back to his apartment?) and, of course, drops a movie catch phrase, repeating the line of Larry’s mom: “Life’s not just black and white. Keep an open mind because you never know!”

He responds with a smirky, hackneyed “Are you driving or are you bullshitin’?”

Once last sucker punch: as they drive away, the Allegro Strings of Triumph AND a Chorus of Heavenly Praise loudly start up. I have never seen such stark, raving fatuousness. First they drive toward the soft-filtered setting sun before turning around and rolling away. I’m just so touched, my body wracked by sobs of joy and my heart bleeding like it was stabbed with Reese Witherspoon’s chin.

And it’s just all so beautiful. The credits rolling, that is.

Afterthoughts:

An Obituary (with apologies to A.J. Jacobs)

Hope, a panoply of positive emotional indices indicating a belief that things might get better and that people might behave with dignity and integrity died on August 1, 2003, after a long decline. The cause was the movie Gigli. A key part of what distinguished people from animals, Hope was born concurrently with our general sentience about our surroundings and our ability to operate our opposable thumbs and was sometimes responsible, in extremis, for providing a sole reason to live despite clear evidence that a painful death might be preferable.

In its prime, it was a vigorous and robust feeling, surviving everything from the Soviet and Nazi regimes to the words “Hootchie Girl” printed large on the seat of short shorts worn by 9-year-olds. Recently, however, Hope had been stricken by the continued ascendance of Pamela Anderson to Hollywood prominence and the ongoing popularity of the lyrics and “poetry” of Jewel. Finally, Hope departed this life when confronted by the overwhelming stupidity, clichéd inanity and leaden “comedy” of Gigli.

Hope was preceded in death by sisters Faith (d. Dec. 3rd, 1991 of causes related to the caterwauling of Mariah Carey) and Charity (d. Nov. 3, 1992, of causes related to the advent of socialism). Hope is survived by estranged twin Despair, currently thriving on the shoulders of Michael Moore movies. Services will be conducted this August at T-Fest in Dallas, Texas.

One lobby poster for Gigli I saw on E-Bay trilled, “One part crime-thriller, one part comedy and all parts romance!” Meh. Maybe more like “One part returning an overdue library book, one part jokes rejected by Whoopi Goldberg and all parts ice cold speculum!” Here’s a quick way to compress this over two-hour (!) painfest into an equivalent two minutes: duct tape cats to your body and run naked through an automated carwash.

Now begins a familiar part of my reviews, the fallout. Because of the real-life romance between the stars of which everyone this side of time beginning was sick to death, Gigli received a pummeling like no movie I can remember except Battlefield Earth.

A nation distraught by terrorist attacks, riven by recession and divided by war came together, great and small, and joined hands to share the hate like one big family. The critics, late night comics, Internet funsters, politicians, even “Weird” Al Yankovic hopped (twice) on the hater bandwagon. I can remember the jokes: “Gigli wasn’t actually as bad as everyone thinks. I watched it on a plane, and there were only two walkouts,” or “Q: Why is Gigli banned in Baghdad? A: They can’t take any more bombs.

Gigli is ensconced on the IMDB Bottom 100 list, probably for all time. Metacritic compiled an appalling 18 (out of 100) “Overwhelming Dislike” rating for it. The Tomatometer gave it a shockingly (J-) low 6% approval rating.

Gigli will also go down in history for winning five Stinker awards, given annually by the Bad Cinema Society, a former secret society of movie buffs. It took “Worst Actor” and Worst Actress,” “Worst Screen Couple,” “Worst Screenplay,” and “Worst Fake Accent.” Since 1980, only Battlefield Earth had been dishonored with so many trophies.

The piling-on continued. Gigli received six Razzies in the 2003 Golden Raspberry Awards – Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst Actress, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Screen Couple. For a film to win the “Academy Awards grand slam”, it must win the awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Writing: Screenplay. Conversely, winning those awards’ Razzie counterparts makes Gigli the only film ever to perform the “Razzie grand slam”. A year later, the film won a seventh Razzie for “Worst Comedy of Our First 25 Years.” (!)

The Internet was swept with caption contests with pictures of Bennifer and winning captions always referencing Gigli. Bad sports teams were saddled with names like “The Cleveland Giglis” by mocking opponents and SportsCenter. The Onion ran an article entitled “Gigli Focus Groups Demand New Ending Where Both Affleck and Lopez Die” One local politician in Maryland called an opponent’s education plan “almost as bad as the script of Gigli.”

(*catching my breath*) Wow! Other than that, General Pickett, how’d the charge go?

Gigli was easily the most slagged film of 2003, perhaps of all time. When it came out, I pondered why this film ended up on the critic dump list despite other awful contenders (Bad Boys II, The Real Cancun, and Boat Trip anyone?) I mean, it couldn’t just be Beniffer overexposure. Twenty minutes in, I knew why. See, the others were clearly garbage. Gigli had the most talked-about tabloid caricatures going at the time. It had a budget of $54 million. Al Pacino and Christopher Walken popped in. It opened in over 2200 theatres.

Most of all, it had Martin Brest directing. Although the studio is to blame for some later revisions, he also wrote the screenplay, which is hard to believe given the soul-pulverizing infantile sex blather that masquerades as a script—Zen-like stemwinders on the shape of vaginas and penises—this from the man who directed the great Scent of a Woman, the absolute smash Beverly Hills Cop, and the crowd-pleasing Midnight Run. Heck, he directed Meet Joe Black which was a guilty pleasure for a younger me. Then Gigli comes out and you could fit all the people who saw it into a cab, with none of them having to take the creepy front seat with the scary Iranian.

Life is full of stuff that once promised delight and yet now delivers only disillusionment. Yet for some reason, you still hang on. Maryland basketball. Promises to simplify the American tax code. Chrysler products. Garbage albums. M. Night Shyamalan movies.

Gigli, on the other hand, apparently killed Brest’s directorial career with one silver bullet—he’s never wrote, produced or directed another movie. He got what he deserved: the one thing that people can do to me that I hate the most (without breaking the law) is insulting my intelligence. And this movie has that in spades. It is deeply offensive.

Ultimately, I think Brest, with this travesty awash in puerile sleaze, Dollar Store sentiment, and locker room disquisitions on the relative attractiveness of reproductive organs, was unwittingly providing us evidence that Jabootu exists. By coming up with something so determinably ghastly, Brest summoned forth that bizarro avatar of genius, that negative image of talent, that muse of Challenger-esque detonations—the Great Old Horned One himself.

Somebody call Inspector Sandy Petersen to get to the bottom of it! Seriously, this movie is why people kill themselves. This is the Rush song “Losing It” personified. How do you go from Scent of a Woman to the mesmerizingly pathetic Gigli and still want to live?

Turning from the artistic side to the business realm, how was this bewildering disaster allowed to happen? With $54 million dollars sunk into the movie, it only returned just under $6 million to the studio. If I was in charge of Revolution Studios, I would have defied previously held notions of the limitations of the speed of light on communications and fired everyone in that department *instantly*.

What were they thinking? Anybody can tell you that rom-coms don’t work when they’re packed with so much profanity and sexist garbage that a purveyor of www.hockeyfights.com would find it too lowbrow. Anybody can tell you that a gangster movie won’t work when it’s crammed with so much goopy, lobotomized romantic nattering that if it awaited you beyond the Pearly Gates you’d hop over to the down escalator. And everybody knows that comedies without laughs will be what bores you into the afterlife in the first place.

Remember the tabloids? If not, don’t watch this movie. If you do…don’t watch this movie. It’s pretty obvious that the studio tinkered with the plot and the script throughout filming and production in order to capitalize on the Bennifer romance angle. So, once again, from the bin of “can’t miss” Hollywood ideas a hircine stench doth arise. But even that fairly-plausible rationale can’t explain the stupendously awful movie which resulted. A lot of time, money and effort went into this, but the results just lay there like something Bobby Bowden hacked up after walking up a flight of stairs puffing a Lucky.

We can all have some fun with it, though. One rumor, which I’m just making up right now, goes as follows: as you know, big studio movies these days are gestated in underground labs with white tile walls suffused with soft lighting, hospital smells and piped-in Celine Dion pap. Hatched here, Gigli was once a much more sterile but sensible movie, but suddenly a herd Beniffer glitterati mounted on flustercluckapotamuses stampeded by and the final draft of the script was knocked from the Plot-O-Matic 3000© and scattered all over the floor.

In a panic, the lone summer intern in attendance, a Marxist Dance Therapy major with a C- average from the Phoenix School of College, hastily picked up the sheets of paper and fed them into the film-making machine in random order. This lobotomized version of Gigli then languished in a post-production coma while trained professionals inserted cues that we should be laughing or touched or turned on. We need to be instructed to feel the correct way, they think, and music is the cue – the Penis Theme. The Ballpark Organ of Chicanery. The Guitar of Tenderness. The Saxophone of Sex (a Sexaphone?) The Allegro Strings of Triumph.

What do you think happened? Tell Ken and I below. We may never be certain because you know what’s not on the DVD? A commentary tract. That would have been interesting.

After El Fiasco Grande and the other stinkers described above, it was all over but the exit interview and firm application of shoe leather to booty for Ben as a top-grossing headliner for years. For quite sometime, his career turned into something that you’d read about in periodicals with headlines like, “Batboy Escapes!”

Affleck saw no movie action for the following three years. Then he was in something called Hollywoodland and a bomb called Smokin’ Aces. I remember spotting him playing poker in a tournament on (I think) an Indian reservation in Oklahoma when I accidentally pushed three numbers on the remote instead of two when changing channels. (Apparently I had discovered the Marianas Trench of cable TV.) He was also a winner on The Biggest Loser, back before weight loss was the criterion.

He has recently undergone a renaissance of sorts. While still wandering though the primeval Gigli wilderness, he directed a movie called Gone Baby Gone. In 2009, he was in the awful (but fairly financially successful) He’s Just Not That Into You. 2010 brought a welcome return with some caper film called The Town in which Ben produced and also starred. I never saw it; boyfriend reports it’s good. Wikipedia says the critics liked it. Good for him.

Although for years after this Ben couldn’t get an appearance on the side of a milk carton greenlit, J-Lo hung in there. After suffering with Ben through Jersey Girl, she went on to star in a series of lower movies, the not-too-bad Shall We Dance? (dance movies do well with me), the pretty bad Monster-in-Law, some drama called Bordertown, and Feel the Noise. Her musical career continues apace; I have no comment as I know nothing about it. (I don’t listen to crap.) She’s on American Idol as a judge—the show that spawned From Justin to Kelly, I might add.

Both seem to have recovered from Gigli over the intervening years. Probably faster than I will.

Two hours stolen
Rather gargle carpet tacks
Than see this again

The Critics Rave!

Gigli doesn’t need a review; it needs an inquest. It was dead on arrival. Who or what killed it? Was it the endless prattle? The ludicrously inappropriate soundtrack? The funereal pacing? The uneasy mix of vulgarity and cheap sentiment? The almost nonexistent story? The resounding miscasting of Ben Affleck as a tough guy and Jennifer Lopez as a woman who’d actually speak to him? Or the bad, bad, bad, bad writing? The answer: This is one of those Murder on the Orient Express situations, in which all the suspects are guilty. The result is the most thoroughly joyless and inept film of the year, and one of the worst of the decade.”

-Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

“The worst major movie of our admittedly young century. More stupefying follies may come, but it’s impossible to imagine how they’ll beat this one for staggering idiocy, fatuousness or pretension.”

-Joel Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

“After the schadenfreudian thrill of watching beautiful people deeply humiliate themselves wears off, it has the same annihilating effect on your will to live. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll do it in that order.”

-Jeff Giles, Newsweek

“How long is this thing? The wrong film was called Enough!”

-Joe Nguyen