Scraping the Barrel: #89, ‘Gigli’

Thousands and thousands of films are made every year. And while some of them are destined for Oscar glory and widespread Metacritic acclaim, others wind up scraping the barrel on the IMDB Bottom 100. What makes these films so universally despised? Are they all really that bad? And, seriously, what’s the deal with From Justin to Kelly? We’ll answer all these questions (and hopefully more) with “Scraping the Barrel,” in which we review the ENTIRETY of the bottom 100, in order.

In today’s installment, Ryan Poynter takes a closer look (when he’s able to uncover his eyes) at #89, 2003′s Gigli.

(Editor Note: We realize the Bottom 100 has changed slightly since we began this series. Our master list was frozen in July 2013.)

The Gist: Ben Affleck and J-Lo co-star as world’s least-convincing kidnappers in this romance/comedy/crime-drama that’s a jack-of-all-genres and terrible at them all.

Those Who Shall Be Held Responsible: Written and directed by Martin Brest

IMDB Stats: #89, 2.4 rating

The Straight Dirt:

Gigli is a confusing film, both in name and in content. I actually spent the first 15 or so minutes of the movie pronouncing it “GIG-lee” — like the word “giggly”, which led me to assume (wrongly) that what I had just committed myself to watching might actually be funny. Guess what? It wasn’t, and I can’t help but feel just a little misled.
Turns out, the film is actually named after Affleck’s character — a dopey-eyed, wannabe tough-guy about one scoop of hair gel away from drowning — whose full name is Larry Gigli. To his credit, he even tries a few times to set the record straight: It’s pronounced “GEE-lee” (rhymes with “really”), he says. Thanks for clearing that up. At that point, I let loose any hope I had of sneaking a laugh out of this piece of shit.

But that didn’t stop it from trying. Gigli makes several pleas for a chuckle, but, sadly, the film’s style of “humor” is more uncomfortable than laughable; Its gags aren’t funny, and they’re delivered with such resolve that it’s hard to tell if they’re even meant to be jokes at all. When that doesn’t work, Gigli tries something else. There’s a borderline-offensive romance plot where Affleck turns a lesbian straight and a crime arc with all the drama and complexity of a rejected Scooby Doo episode. The film throws a lot of darts, but they all end up sticking in its foot.

Here’s the gist of it:

Larry Gigli (Ben Affleck) is a low-level street gangster with a large collection of bowling shirts and some erratic eyebrows. He’s got the attitude and wardrobe of a Home Alone villain who wandered into an R-rated movie. When we first meet him, he’s shoving some guy into a clothes dryer at the laundromat because he owes Louis (Lenny Venito), Affleck’s boss, some money. Gigli drools out a monologue about drying out the human body that sounds like it’s written by a fifth-grader who’s just watched his first Tarantino film. It works (somehow); he gets the money, and then he’s given a new task that makes up the plot of the rest of the movie: Kidnap the brother of a federal prosecutor to use as leverage in a big case. “That’ll definitely work,” said no one ever.

That’s when Gigli meets Brian (Justin Bartha), the mentally retarded kidnapee whose only lines throughout the film consist of awkwardly-delivered dick jokes and bad renditions of ‘90s rap songs (two verses and the chorus of “Baby Got Back” from inside a hospital morgue are about as heartfelt as he gets). Brian’s picked up directly from a mental health facility — security is pretty relaxed there, apparently — and he spends basically the rest of the film eating cereal, shouting, and dancing around in Gigli’s apartment. It’s supposed to be a kidnapping, but, honestly, it seems like an upgrade.

Shortly after, Ricki — a “private contractor” hired by Louis to keep tabs on Affleck and his hostage (played by Jennifer Lopez) — makes her appearance. She’s a little of everything: a hit-woman, a master of ancient martial arts, an expert negotiator, a proud lesbian, and an altogether really bad judge of character — made clear by the people we meet in the film that she’s sleeping with (a suicidal 20-something girl with no concept of trespassing laws, and, well… Gigli).

Together, this trio gets into just about the maximum amount of trouble three people could from the comfort of a high-rise, beachfront apartment in a fairly safe neighborhood. For the most part, this equates to a few shouting matches between the three and several awkward meals together. There are a few lowlights, though — like when Gigli and Ricki each spend several minutes debating the irreplaceable contributions their respective sex organs have made to the world (Affleck illustrates his point by balling his hand into a fist, while J-Lo makes visual comparisons to the mouth and lips for her rebuttal). It’s as uncomfortable as it sounds.

When the group gets out of the house (which isn’t often), things don’t fare much better. They spend one scene in an outdoor cafe, where Gigli gets into an argument with a group of teenagers over the volume of their radio, and Ricki solves it by threatening the kids with some karate moves that she doesn’t actually know. In that kind of situation, nobody wins. Then, later, the threesome sneaks into a hospital to steal the thumb of a cadaver (no one will notice it’s gone, I’m sure), which they mail to Brian’s brother in an absurdly-stupid attempt to intimidate him. It doesn’t work at all, and Gigli, Ricki, and their boss Louis get into some serious trouble as a result.

With about 15 minutes left in the film, we meet Starkman. He’s the boss of Gigli’s boss and the sole reason Brian was ever picked up by Gigli in the first place (thanks a lot, jackass). Al Pacino plays this role with his crazy-dial turned up to 11 — Starkman shoots Louis between the eyes without warning, then spends the rest of his screentime (about five minutes total) yelling as loudly as he can about the case against him, about the kidnapping, and then about nothing in particular.

Once his nerves have calmed and his vocal cords have dulled, Starkman surprises Gigli and Ricki with a perspective neither of them had considered so far: Maybe kidnapping Brian was a bad idea (he’s totally right, but it’s too late to backtrack now; we’re already two hours in). This short sequence pretty much undermines the film’s entire plot and strips away any semblance of resolution or closure you might’ve been hoping for. Suddenly, any loose ends left in the narrative (as in, all of them) get thrown out and the characters spend the next 30 seconds deciding how to undo the mess they’ve made.

Turns out, it’s really easy. The film draws to a close as Gigli and Ricki leave Starkman’s place. They pick up Brian and, in an effort to prove that they care, drop him off at a random beach and hit the road for good. While there, he joins a bunch of people who look like they’re filming a Pitbull music video. It’s the happiest we’ve seen him. At the same time, our partners in crime make their way out of town. That’s it. Abruptly, the film ends. The closing shot is of Gigli and Ricki in a convertible, top down, cruising up the Californian coast. I guess even they know it’s best to get as far away from this disaster as possible.

Consensus

Gigli is a glimpse into an alternate dimension where Ben Affleck is cool, J-Lo is talented, and jokes about the mentally-handicapped are funny.

Should-be IMDB Score: 1.0

Random Quotes

“I am the Sultan of Slick… The rule of cool.” — Gigli monologuing about how awesome he is to Ricki

“It’s turkey time. Gobble gobble.” — Ricki, just before sleeping with Gigli for the first time

“suck-my-dick.com” — Gigli, breaking a teenager’s computer over his knee

“They make my penis sneeze.” — Brian, talking about the girls from Baywatch

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