Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Oh, Gigli!

I did it and lived.

Yup. To hear the critics tell it, merely watching Martin Brest’s Gigli is enough to cause permanent brain damage. But I took the Gigli Challenge and am here to tell the tale.

I know what you’re thinking. He just did it to be perverse. He just did it to try and prove them wrong.

Well, first of all, let’s get one thing straight. I’ll pretty much watch any movie on cable if I click on it as it’s starting. Or even halfway through, come to think of it.

But I do have a theory that oftentimes these bits of so-called accepted wisdom, like “Worst Movie Ever Made!”, are things that have just snowballed into exaggeration because of other factors. For instance, Gigli, and the follow-up Bennifer project Jersey Girl, were tagged as targets before they ever hit theaters, thanks to the public romance of their stars.

Nothing they did was ever going to get a fair shake. Now, it’s easy to pick apart some of the things in Gigli and make them appear ridiculous, but you could do the same thing with any film if you put your mind to it.

I’m not defending it as a lost classic or a diamond in the rough, but there were parts of it that were appealing.

If you go back and look at the reviews that appeared during its run, you’ll find that most of them are rather transparent excuses to aim barbs at Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez who, it seems, made the mistake of being rich, famous, and attractive.

Keep in mind that I thought Ishtar was funny.

If you’re not familiar with the plot of Gigli, Affleck and Lopez play two hardboiled underworld hitman types who are hired to kidnap the mentally disabled brother of a fed who’s putting pressure on a “client.” Forced to work together, the two predictably chafe against each other but soon begin to work together, especially after they’re ordered to send one of the brother’s thumbs through the mail as proof that they’ve got him.

The kid, channeling Dustin Hoffman’s performance in Rain Man with a little Tourette’s thrown in, has a penchant for quoting rap songs and dialing up the weather in Australia (a gag that pays off at the end of the film, by the way).

Throw into this mix the fact that Lopez is a lesbian and Affleck is hopelessly smitten. Apparently he’s the go-to guy when you’re making a film about a star-crossed homo/hetero love affair. Related to this is much discussion of whether men or women possess superior sex organs and the possibility that Affleck’s character may be having trouble dealing with a feminine side that is strangely attracted to this very dominant woman.

So I’ll give Gigli some points for a little more sophistication than one might expect in a project like this.

It’s not bad. And hey, you get cameos from Christopher Walken and Al Pacino, which automatically bumps you up a couple of stars. They’re both great here, but you know what they say about great actors and the phone book.

The mentally disabled brother, who spends the entire film begging to go to “The Baywatch,” is given a plot twist you see coming but is not less welcome for that. In fact, the love story between Affleck and Lopez here is actually more affecting and mature than the one they share in the supposedly superior Jersey Girl, which tanked in part due to the reception Gigli received and in part because it was such a drastic change in tone for writer/director Kevin Smith.

No dummy Smith, he’s already filming a sequel to his very first feature and evergreen fan favorite Clerks, which should hopefully turn his fortunes around. His fan base is such that he really doesn’t have to try that hard any more anyway. He’s at the point where he can produce a film full of in-jokes that only the converted will get, like Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, and he’ll still end up in the black. Don’t look for him to go straying off the reservation again anytime soon. If Clerks 2 does well, look for Clerks 3, 4 and 5 to arrive in quick succession.

Lopez has bounced back, but Affleck seems to have been permanently stained by Gigli. He’s the one the late night comics still make jokes about, the one whose name has been substituted into jokes where Madonna’s used to be.

It’s like everyone involved with the film was playing “Hot Potato” and Affleck lost.

That’s sort of how celebrity and the media works. Like Woody Allen said about intellectuals, they only kill their own.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is because he hasn't had a great role since then. She has taken on some interesting and somewhat gritty projects, as well as her standard romantic comedy fare. He took on roles that he isn't really right for (Surviving Christmas? Come on!) He needs something with teeth, something edgy and not looking for a "blockbuster" box office, IMO.
-Jill (magentalai)

Sunday, October 16, 2005 3:27:00 PM  

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