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GIGLI(director/writer: Martin Brest; cinematographer: Robert Elswit; editors: Julie Monroe/Billy Weber; music: John Powell; cast: Ben Affleck (Larry Gigli), Jennifer Lopez (Ricki), Justin Bartha (Brian), Lenny Venito (Louis), Christopher Walken (Detective Jacobellis), Al Pacino (Starkman), Lainie Kazan (Mother), Missy Crider (Robin); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Martin Brest/Casey Silver; Columbia Pictures; 2003)
“There was more wrong with this unconventional romantic comedy than right.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

There was more wrong with this unconventional romantic comedy than right. The story was nonsensical, the dialogue was often limp, there were dead spots throughout in the form of lectures about bisexuality over macho male sex, and the two star leads as softhearted hitmen was hardly convincing. But Ben Affleck is charming and Jennifer Lopez is beguiling, and the film is by no means a complete dud. It carves out a character study as the real-life lovebird couple show what chemistry they have together, as they interact as romantics under the guise of being professional hitmen. The twist is in the J.Lo character being gay and the low-life gangster character portrayed by Affleck is set on nailing the beauty. There was some screwball comedy that worked, but the film went on for at least 40 minutes too long and got caught up in New Age sermonizing and an unsatisfying ending. There was also that misplaced lesson J. Lo gives about Sun Tzu and his theory about fighting, which was a snoozer. Gigli is written, coproduced, and directed by Martin Brest (“Meet Joe Black“/”Beverly Hills Cop“).

Larry Gigli (Affleck), his last name rhymes with really, is a screw up Los Angeles gangster, who is given a risky assignment by his mob boss Louis to kidnap a mentally challenged teenager named Brian (Bartha) and to hold him as a threat against the kid’s NYC federal prosecutor brother. Big brother is trying a NYC gangster named Starkman (Pacino).

Gigli snatches Brian from his L. A. special school and holds him in his one-bedroom apartment, but is surprised that his boss sends over Ricki (Lopez) to make sure he doesn’t screw up. She’s reading a book about peace, has just broken up with her girlfriend, gives no signs that she will be talked out of being a lesbian despite soulful looks at Gigli and loves to tweak her hit man counterpart over his macho image. The three diverse characters in the small apartment relate with each other and fit together as an oddball Hollywood family, as much of the comedy comes from the retarded actions of the warm-hearted Brian. The kid captures the hearts of the hitmen and when told that they have to cut off his thumb, they can’t go through with it. This unites the hitmen against their crime boss and brings them affectionately closer together. The situation was clever and I could buy into it, unfortunately the dialogue couldn’t keep pace. What helped were two flowery cameos by Christopher Walken and Al Pacino. Unfortunately, they were too briefly onscreen to distract us more from how silly this all was and how the film had nothing really to say.

Fans of Lopez and Affleck might be more drawn to this story than others, though many might be disappointed in seeing the stars play roles that might not be pleasing or play to their image. The most daring thing attempted that makes it differ somewhat from the couple’s other Hollywood films, is that J. Lo waxes poetic about being gay and how wonderful is the “pussy.”


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”