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Gigli (July 30/03)

Gigli arrives in theaters accompanied by months of bad press and shifting release dates (the film was originally supposed to open last November), but guess what? The film's actually not that bad. Sure, it's overlong by at least 30-minutes and there's absolutely no storyline; however, Gigli also boasts a pair of incredibly charismatic performances and some refreshingly frank adult dialogue (a rarity in this day and age).

Ben Affleck stars as Larry Gigli (which rhymes with really, as he's fond of saying), a low-level hired goon that doesn't seem to be particularly good at his job. His latest assignment requires him to hold onto the mentally handicapped brother of a federal prosecutor, a young man named Brian (Justin Bartha). Though Gigli assumes he's going solo on this gig, his boss doesn't trust him and sends in Ricki (Jennifer Lopez) to assist. Though they initially dislike and distrust each other, it's not long before Gigli and Ricki become close friends.

Right off the bat, it's clear that Affleck's having a lot of fun with this role. He's adopted some kind of a New York accent, and it occasionally seems like he's channelling Christopher Walken in his performance. And as the commercials and trailers have already indicated, Affleck spends a good portion of the film smirking - as though he's been watching a few too many Seinfeld reruns as of late. Still, Gigli marks Affleck's most enjoyable performance outside of a Kevin Smith film, and for that alone the film is probably worth a look for his fans. As for Lopez, aside from her virtually flawless appearance (how likely is it that a rough-and-tumble thug would look this good all the time?), she proves to be an effective foil for Affleck's character. Lopez has an appealing screen presence, and not surprisingly, she and Affleck have great chemistry together.

And after the barrage of blow-'em-up action flicks that we've been hit with over the last few months, what a pleasure it was watching a movie packed with dialogue. The back-and-forth banter between Gigli and Ricki is a lot of fun, and though it's not exactly His Girl Friday (somehow I don't think that Rosalind Russell had a long speech extolling the greatness of her vagina in that movie), the two actors do a nice job of playing off of each other.

But writer/director Martin Brest doesn't quite know when to quit, and Gigli ends up limping to a lame finale after a fairly strong opening first half. Brest has never been one for brevity (his last two films, Meet Joe Black and Scent of a Woman, ran over 150 minutes), a problem that's more obvious than ever here. Aside from the initial setup involving Gigli and Ricki looking after Brian, there's not much more to the film. The majority of the film is entirely plotless and consists mostly of conversations between the two central characters. And while their aforementioned discussions are interesting for the first hour, eventually all this talk about nothing becomes tiresome. But even that's not as bad as the finale, which (presumably due to those infamous reshoots forced on Brest) winds up making next to no sense. Worse than that, the film takes about 20-minutes longer to end than it really should. Without getting into spoiler territory, Gigli's conclusion is completely out of place and winds up leaving the film with a really bad after-taste.

Aside from those complaints, Gigli is essentially harmless fun. It's nowhere near as bad as virtually all the critics claim, and to those that believe the film marks the worst pairing of a real-life couple, keep in mind it wasn't that long ago that Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas inflicted Too Much upon the movie-going public.

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