IS “GIGLI” AS BAD AS THE CRITICS SAY?

CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Joe Baltake (sacbee.com), Roger Ebert & Movie Answer Man (suntimes.com), Stu Bykofsky & Dan Grossman (philly.com), Jeremy Heilman (moviemartyr.com), Fred Topel (about.com), Dustin Putnam (themovieboy.com), Laine Ewen (premiere.com), Roger Friedman (foxnews.com), David Grove (filmthreat.com), Maitland McDonagh (tvguide.com), Claudia Puig (usatoday.com), Bruce Newman (mercurynews.com), Scott Weinberg (efilmcritic.com)

* (out of 5 stars)

The majority of film critics did not like the movie “Gigli” (which rhymes with really) and this has sparked a backlash from other critics who either liked or kind of liked the movie. Which critics are right – the majority or minority?

“Gigli” is a story about Larry Gigli (Ben Affleck), a Los Angeles wannabe hitman who is hired to kidnap the mentally challenged brother of a powerful district attorney. Gigli’s boss sends him a gorgeous partner named Ricki (Jennifer Lopez) to make sure everything goes smooth. Gigli, of course, is attracted to her. When he finds out Ricki is a lesbian, he becomes extremely frustrated – like the majority of critics who watched this movie.

Film critic Joe Baltake (sacbee.com) was so sick of hearing critics delight in bashing this movie, even after the reviews came out, that he wrote a letter to Roger Ebert’s Movie Answer Man column (suntimes.com) asking why critics were so happy about the movie’s failure – calling it “unbridled venom.” “It’s times like this that make me ashamed to be a movie critic,” said Baltake.

Ebert answered the man, “Why did critics go overboard? Maybe they sampled the negative advance buzz, and wanted to elbow to the front of the line. Maybe they took pleasure in deflating two high-profile stars. Maybe there was a kind of feeding frenzy. ‘Gigli’ is a failure, but not awful, and–this is crucial–not boring.”

Maybe, Roger and Joe, this movie just plain sucked! I will elaborate on this later, but for now – here’s some more whining:

“The movie was attacked more ferociously than Baghdad, and critics weren’t using smart bombs – they dumped dumb, gross tonnage on it…this is more the product of ‘pack journalism’ on the part of snotty elitists who decided that Bennifer had risen too far, too fast and now it was their God-given duty to drop the pair.” Stu Bykofsky & Dan Grossman (philly.com)

“Not all critics who dislike ‘Gigli’ are fools, and there are a smattering of valid complaints out there, but by and large the critical community has immolated the most challenging and provocative film that has come out of Hollywood this year.” Jeremy Heilman (moviemartyr.com)

“All those critics of ‘Gigli’ must be so proud of themselves. It sure takes a lot of originality to make the same comments everybody else is making.” Fred Topel (about.com)

“Perhaps a vendetta has begun against the famed romance of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, or maybe the movie’s many detractors simply walked in with a negative attitude based on what they had heard, and nothing they saw could change their minds.” Dustin Putnam (themovieboy.com)

Listen, folks. I went into this movie (after hearing the negative advanced buzz) hoping and praying I would love this film. Why? Imagine all the critics I could examine! But NOOOO! Now I find myself defending the majority of critics because a few (and I mean a handful) are upset that other critics have opinions!

I watched this film and it deserves every negative review it received (with the exception of some personal attacks). There’s no critical conspiracy going on here, people. “Gigli” simply sucked! That’s the truth and here’s why.

Putnam said in his review that “Gigli” is “an entertaining romantic comedy with a fresh, wicked edge…ignites more steamy chemistry than any movie romance this year.” Roger Ebert said in his review, “Lopez and Affleck are sweet and appealing in their performances; the buzz said they didn’t have chemistry, but the buzz was wrong.”

Putnam and Ebert are half-right. A good example of bad chemistry is Lopez’ “The Wedding Planner” with Matthew McConaughey. That was bad. Ben and Jen, however, might have had chemistry, but not in this movie. The film’s story and dialogue was too distracting to really say.

Laine Ewen (premiere.com) said, “It is tricky to say what to make of the chemistry between Ben and J. Lo, as their scenes together are often so mortifying that it’s hard to stay focused on the screen.”

I am shocked that Ebert used terms like “sweet” and “appealing” when speaking of Ben and Jen’s performance. That is the exact opposite of what came across the screen – and this is the crux of the movie’s problem.

When I envision a story featuring Ben and Jen, I think of flowers and other lovely things. Ben is too boyish to be a tough guy and I don’t find the premise of Lopez as a lesbian to be an appealing plot for a straight romantic comedy (and yes – “Chasing Amy” sucked!). What we have is Ben playing a part he doesn’t fit; and the sexual situation calls for too much vulgarity. It just doesn’t fit.

Roger Friedman (foxnews.com) said, “Witless, coarse, and vulgar, ‘Gigli’ is worse than its advance buzz could have indicated.”

Ebert disagrees: “To hear some critics tell it, when Jennifer Lopez says her infamous line ‘gobble, gobble,’ she commits a crime against taste, art, and maybe even civilization. I liked that line. People do talk that way sometimes. It shows a cheeky sense of humor.”

Maybe some people do talk that way, Roger. But the vast majority of critics and audiences understand it just doesn’t fit the Ben and Jen model. Other critics got it right:

David Grove (filmthreat.com) said, “A scene where Affleck and Lopez compare oral sex to a turkey (‘gobble gobble’) is just plain disgusting. There’s another scene, involving a crude joke about female genitalia that must’ve been very humiliating for Jennifer Lopez to have to perform.” Maitland McDonagh (tvguide.com) said the movie “is vulgar when it’s trying to be frank and sophisticated. The spectacle of the near-naked Ricki striking sexually provocative yoga poses while floridly extolling the virtues of female genitalia is particularly mortifying.”

I’ll say it again. People don’t want to watch Ben and Jen talk garbage! They want a nice romance. Here’s more proof:

Claudia Puig (usatoday.com) said, “It tries hard to titillate, but ends up making audiences want to avert their eyes.” Bruce Newman (mercurynews.com) said, “Hearing Lopez use all the naughty words in an explicitly sexual way is apparently supposed to be the aural equivalent of a nude scene. But it pulls you out of the moment, not into it.”

The movie’s other problems include a disjointed plot, a terrible (fake) performance by Justin Bartha as a mentally challenged boy and a disgusting butt shot of Gigli’s mother (Lainie Kazan). This dull movie clocks in at 124 minutes!

Oh! Here’s something disturbing. There’s a scene where Ricki’s former lesbian girlfriend makes a surprise visit. Heart-broken by their breakup, the suicidal woman cuts her wrists and they rush her to the hospital. Not long after that, Ricki and Gigli are in bed. Now there’s some romance for ya!

I did like the cameos by Christopher Walken and Al Pacino, but they were so good – they belonged in a better film. I do feel bad for director Martin Best (responsible for such films as “Scent of a Woman” & “Midnight Run”) and Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. There are some critics who even regret having to be a part of the majority.

Scott Weinberg (efilmcritic.com) said, “I hate to join the unending parade of critical debasement this movie’s earned. Knowing full well that it’s the latest Mega-Monstrosity could allow me to approach the flick with a charitable attitude. Surely ‘I’ could find something worthwhile in this movie, right? Er, no. ‘Gigli’ is precisely as awful as everyone’s been saying, and it’s a sad state of affairs when a 2+ hour parade of blatant self-adoration can pass for an actual movie.”

A Reuter’s news piece at CNN (cnn.com) quoted Ben Affleck saying the movie “wasn’t good.” Affleck defended parts of the film, but said, “I don’t think ultimately the movie held up as a whole.” So what’s next? Will the handful of critics defending this movie say Affleck is a liar?

Bruce Newman (mercurynews.com) summed the movie up best: “‘Gigli’ is a rigli, rigli bad movie.”

If huge droves of critics are entitled to like a movie, large numbers are certainly entitled to hate it. Critics can disagree all they want, but the fact remains – “Gigli” is as awkward as the word itself. I suggest you spell “Gigli” backwards so it sounds like “ill gig.”

That really (which rhymes with Gigli) describes this movie perfectly.

– CRITIC DOCTOR

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Posted on August 21, 2003 in Features by
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