Monday, January 24, 2011

Razzie Worst Picture Winner? "Gigli" is Not that Bad

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 120 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Gigli (2003)
Running time: 121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – R for sexual content, pervasive language and brief strong violence
PRODUCERS: Martin Brest and Casey Silver
EDITOR: Julie Monroe and Billy Weber
Razzie Award winner


Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bartha, Lenny Venito, Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, and Lanie Kazan

A little more than half way through the year 2003, Martin Brest's (Beverly Hills Cop, Scent of a Woman) Gigli may be the worst reviewed movie of the year, but it is by no means the worst movie I’ve seen this year. Thus far, that would be the dreadful Legally Blonde sequel. Gigli is entertaining and has enough raunchy comedy that I would recommend it to anyone who can stomach something like Pulp Fiction or it’s Baby Gap version, Go. Anyone who is a fan of Affleck or Ms. Lopez shouldn’t miss this for the world. It’s not a matter of the film being that bad, considering that many people will give anything a shot, especially once a movie is on home video, Gigli pretty much runs with the pack in terms of quality (or lack thereof).

Larry Gigli (Ben Affleck) is a lowly thug with a penchant for delivering the pain when his mob boss Louis (Lenny Venito) demands it. He’s assigned to kidnap Brian (Justin Bartha), the mentally retarded brother of powerful federal prosecutor. Louis doesn’t trust Gigli not to screw up the job, so he sends in Ricki (Jennifer Lopez), another contract specialist, to watch over Larry. After some initial hard feelings, Larry falls for Ricki, but when she promptly informs him that she is gay, Gigli realizes that it may be a hard road to travel before he gets in her drawers.

More than anything, I think Gigli’s problems lie in Martin Brest’s script. I don’t at all mind the lewd and crude humor and scenes or the idiosyncratic characters. What I do mind is that Brest’s assumes that all the odd bits should make up for what is essentially a lightweight tale of star-crossed lovers and offbeat characters. In a sense, Gigli and Ricki should easily fall in love – after a period of struggling to accept each other’s oddities, of course. Instead the love story simply stumbles around its own plot twists: Ricki’s gay; she might be interested in men; she thinks Gigli’s in the closet; she really likes him, but she’s just not ready for a man.

Granted that there might be real life situations like this, but drama, art, and fiction should give the audience the payoff that real life will not. Even a love story about two polar opposites is supposed to deliver on the fact that this mismatched pair will eventually match up. Now, one of those “complex, art, awards season” films might get away with keeping the nothing-in-common lovers apart, but Gigli is, regardless of Brest’s intentions, throwaway entertainment. After all, a smart intelligent, Academy Award-genre film doesn’t rely on a mentally handicapped man singing rude rap songs or saying things like, “when my penis sneezes” for laughs.

Gigli wants to be a crime drama, but it’s only superficially so. There is some and crime and some drama, but it’s almost a movie without a genre. What saves Gigli are the often-hilarious lines and scenes, even the goofy ones like, “when my penis sneezes,” or “I tell my penis ‘God bless you’ when it sneezes.” I even enjoyed Ben and Jen playing twister with this crooked love story. Ben ably rises above the material to give a very good performance, only falling short when the script utterly fails him. Jen’s character is a crock, but she tries in spite of her limitations as an actress. Lanie Kazan (in a really low down and common role), Christopher Walken and Al Pacino make the most of their cameos, and Lenny Venito and Justin Bartha give solid supporting performances.

I’d see this again, because I like it in spite of the handicapped script. When it’s funny, it’s outrageous and as raw as anything Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy could deliver in their best days. And at the oddest moments, Gigli is sad, sweet, charming, and endearing. In a season of disposable action movies, Gigli is the odd man out, and worth seeing – either in the theatre or at home.

5 of 10

2004 Razzie Award: 6 wins: “Worst Actor” (Ben Affleck), “Worst Actress” (Jennifer Lopez), “Worst Director” (Martin Brest), “Worst Picture” (Columbia and Revolution), “Worst Screen Couple” (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez), “Worst Screenplay” (Martin Brest); 3 nominations: “Worst Supporting Actor” (Al Pacino), “Worst Supporting Actor” (Christopher Walken) and “Worst Supporting Actress” Lainie Kazan)

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