Monday, December 7, 2009

A Decade of Dreck #16: Gigli

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

It. Is. Turkey time. Gobble gobble.

Those six words are now forever etched onto my brain; irremovable for all time, I will take them to my grave. When I am punished for my sins and my soul sinks down to Hell, the first thing Minos says to me before he renders his judgments upon my damned shade will be that exact phrase: "It's turkey time. Gobble gobble."

This particular phrase, a bizarre and horrifying invocation of cunnilingus, is oddly enough, one of the lesser offenses of Gigli, a movie notorious not so much for its sheer badness as it is for the era it reminds us of. That unfortunate era was the time of 2002-2003, when Bennifer ruled the media and there was nothing we mortals could due to escape celebrity power couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Gigli was to represent the pair's ultimate domination of popular culture, their apotheosis into Hollywood legend. Unfortunately for Affleck and Lopez, and perhaps fortunately for the rest of the human race, we the public had become vociferously sick of their overexposure and this movie tanked, eventually taking Bennifer down with it.

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez individually survived the ordeal, albeit with bruised egos and somewhat altered career trajectories, neither has really been able to match their pre-Gigli box office success, though both have moved on to marry other fellow celebrities and Affleck has even had something of an unlikely reinvention as a character actor and serious director.

It took Ben Affleck roughly four years to professionally recover from Gigli. I suppose it will take me just as long to recover emotionally.

You see, for a good deal of time, I was a big time Ben Affleck fan. I was a Ben Affleck apologist in the way that C.S. Lewis was a Christ apologist, I knew that the modern world was hostile and critical of my beloved Ben but I saw it as my sacred duty to reconcile this actor with a society that hated and feared him. I suppose that my blind devotion to Ben Affleck was a by-product of my Kevin Smith fanboyism, Affleck being something of Smith's muse for a good period of time (by the way, isn't it weird that Affleck has basically played Kevin Smith in two movies? Chasing Amy was an overly-personal portrait of Kevin Smith's feelings on love and Jersey Girl was an overly-personal portrait of Kevin Smith's feelings on fatherhood; both star Affleck. Weird, eh?) Anyway, I figured "I survived Pearl Harbor, I can survive Gigli."

And I'm just going to nip this one in the bud- I don't like Daredevil anymore.

Gigli casts Affleck as a woefully inappropriate and inept mob enforcer named Larry Gigli (rhymes with "really" as in "Gigli...*sigh*...really?"). Gigli is tasked with kidnapping Brian, the mentally retarded younger brother (played by the nerdy comic relief from the National Treasure movies and the fourth guy from the Hangover) of a federal prosecutor in an effort to persuade him to drop the case against his boss. Before we go any farther, read that sentence again. Did you do it? Good. Gigli is tasked with kidnapping the mentally retarded younger brother of a federal prosecutor in an effort to persuade him to drop the case against his boss. This is just rife with potential disaster on all fronts. Generally, at least in my experience, mental retardation humor is a minefield of anti-funny. Maybe it's because my mother is a special ed teacher and I was raised to never ever even think about laughing at the mentally handicapped but I've never been able to find any serious laughs in the retarded: it's just too easy and too cruel (okay, I think Cameron Diaz's brother in There's Something About Mary is hilarious). On top of being retarded, the brother also curses like a sailor and is obsessed with "the Baywatch". This is a disaster.

So Gigli kidnaps the kid by luring him back to his apartment with promises of Baywatch. It's less a kidnapping as it is a terrible buddy comedy: Gigli is incredibly annoyed at Brian's condition and his incessant retardness - will they ever learn to be friends? I wonder. Anyway, before you can really even get angry about having to watch this movie for some stupid blog, Jennifer Lopez shows up. She's a fellow hitperson named Ricki tasked with making sure the completely incompetent Affleck isn't overwhelmed by babysitting a retarded kid. I'm not sure why you would need someone to supervise a kidnapping in the first place or why any criminal syndicate worth a damn would employ a screw-up like Affleck to begin with., but it happened and it's our problem now. Since it's Jennifer Lopez and half of the film's cinematography seems devoted to photographing her prodigious can (which, you know, isn't a bad thing for a movie to do) Affleck begins incessantly and clumsily hitting on her using barnyard metaphors ("I'm the bull, you're the cow!") and sub-Jersey Shore charm (this movie is also twenty times more entertaining if you imagine that Gigli is a virgin). But, in a HILARIOUS turn of events, Lopez turns out to be a lesbian. Whoops!

This film makes an intriguing companion piece (not a double feature, that would require you to watch Gigli) to the aforementioned Chasing Amy as both of them involve Ben Affleck trying to woo lesbians. However, whereas Amy portrayed Affleck's character as a misguided fool, Gigli just reinforces Jason Lee's Chasing Amy character's mantra: all a lesbian needs is some good dick to turn her straight. Lopez has a monologue (which she delivers while performing yoga, this when combined with the fact that she's reading a book by Thich Nhat Hanh for the entire movie tells us that her character is "deep" or "spiritual" or some shit) about why penises are terrible and why vaginas are great that puts her squarely in the "man-hating dyke" category. Even though Lopez's character is definitely a lesbian, all master of romance Gigli needs to do is show some persistence and deliver an overwrought love confession in his car to her and she is back batting for the hetero team. At least in Amy things didn't work out and Joey Lauren Adams was back to sleeping with women at the end of the movie, here Affleck and his former-lesbo conquest ride off into the sunset for some hot turkey timin'! Gobble gobble!

Even with their romantic mishaps, Gigli and Ricki are still two of the worst criminals ever to grace the silver screen. So Gigli, a mafia hitman, is ordered to kidnap a retarded guy. Okay, right off the bat that's pretty reprehensible. When his boss thinks it might be too much for him to handle (why hire him in the first place?) he sends Ricki to make sure things go smoothly. Now if I was a mob boss and has doubts about an underling's ability to do a job, I wouldn't use him for it. Maybe something simpler like office work. Or I'd just whack him. Anyway, if I was double-dipping on a job like this one, I would make sure the second person on the job was a ruthless killer who would have no qualms about killing the retarded kid or the guy who kidnapped him. Instead, the guy in this movie sends Jennifer Lopez, who has all the ruthlessness of an elementary school art teacher. When they're ordered to cut off one of Brian's thumbs to be sent to his brother as a threat, both Gigli and Ricki are disgusted and decide to get around the order by cutting the thumb off a cadaver (yes, it gets fingerprinted and yes another character tells them how stupid they are). Really? Are these the only two people left in this particular gang?

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez aren't the only big name stars to suffer at the hands of Gigli, there are plenty of others. Christopher Walken swings by Gigli's apartment for one scene as his cop buddy (?) who delivers some exposition and then leaves, never to be heard from again. Though this shouldn't come as much of a surprise given his last decade of work, Al Pacino turns out to be the mob boss on trial and serves as a deus ex machina, wrapping everything up nice and tidy (though why he doesn't shoot Affleck and Lopez in the head I'll never understand). I suppose he must have owed director Martin Brest a favor for, you know, getting him that Oscar.

I picked Gigli for this project out of a morbid curiosity if anything and maybe to finally see the movie that so many people have made fun of without seeing. It utterly failed to combat the legions of jokes leveled at it over the faithful waning months of the Bennifer era. This movie is just plain awful. I can think of no reason to ever watch this movie ever. It will never be on TV (I hope) and if you ever meet someone who owns it, you need to stop being friends with them. In fact, I think in some parts of the Muslim world Sharia law permits you to perform a mercy killing on anyone who likes this movie.

The one good thing to come out of this ugly experience? Taco flavored kisses.

Gigli is ranked #73 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 6% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.