It's not so easy to make a great howler of a bad movie. In recent years, Madonna 's made more than her share: "Shanghai Surprise," "Swept Away," "Who's That Girl," among them.
In 2001, Mariah Carey starred in "Glitter," which has only aged badly since its laughable premiere. And then there's "Showgirls," "Striptease," "The Postman," "Waterworld," "Ishtar," and the perceived king of kings, "Heaven's Gate."
Now add to the very top of the list, "Gigli" — directed by Martin Brest, who actually has another title on the list already: "Meet Joe Black."
Witless, coarse, and vulgar, "Gigli" is worse than its advance buzz could have indicated. Starring real-life tabloid lovers Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, the film — if you can call it that — is a total, mindless disaster. Sitting in a screening last night with reviewers and feature writers, I could only think of one word: stupefying.
As many who were there muttered on the way out: "What were they thinking?"
First, the acting: Lopez and Affleck may have chemistry at home, but they have none here. Affleck comes off the worst. As hitman Larry Gigli, Affleck seems to be doing a bad imitation of James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano.
A thuggish Brooklyn-esque accent comes and goes, and Affleck never figures out whether he's a good guy or a bad guy. While these gears are turning in his head, you can't help notice that he's a hitman wearing a luxurious Gucci leather jacket and gorgeous silk tops. He also appears to be wearing Ted Danson's toupee from "Cheers."
J-Lo does a little better, but not much as a lesbian hitwoman who is nonetheless smitten with Affleck. She makes her first appearance wearing a midriff-revealing halter-top to show off her abs and rear end, and it just keeps getting better.
At one point Lopez is featured in a yoga position called "the crow," which is photographed as if she were a kangaroo hoisted on its hind legs and ready for mating. As I once heard Anna Wintour say of Clint Eastwood with matted hair in a rainstorm scene, "It's not a good look for you."
Like Ben, who actually says the word "heart-throb-a-rama," J-Lo is saddled with ridiculous, offensive, unfortunate dialogue, much of which can't be quoted in proper publications.
Herewith some of her declarations: "It's turkey time. Gobble, gobble." "A penis is like a sea slug or a long toe." "I thought you wanted to be my bitch."
There's a fourth line, but it can't be repeated here, concerning her offer to perform a sex act on Affleck for 12 hours. Another character, doing an unintentional Joe Pesci imitation from "Goodfellas," later describes Lopez's lesbian with a term that should have women's groups on both sides demanding a recall vote on the screenwriter.
Trust me, the dialogue in "Gigli" is so awful that the groans just come faster and faster. It is also unnecessarily vulgar. I counted the "f-word" no fewer than 15 times in the first 10 minutes and then lost track.
Lopez also makes a long speech to Affleck in which she draws analogies between her female anatomy and one's mouth, ending in a particular vulgarity that sent at least two New York Times writers right out of the theatre.
There are other actors in the film. Sadly, newcomer Justin Bartha , who plays a "Rain Man"-like autistic character stolen directly from that movie — but without the manual — makes a very bad first impression.
Will he turn out to be a "thumbless, bleeding halfwit," as Lopez's character posits? It's hard to say since Bartha, not getting any direction from Brest, slips from autism to Tourette's Syndrome to ADD to simply being annoying.
But the "Rain Man" lifts are painful to watch. Instead of being obsessed with "Wapner," for example, this character only wants to see "Baywatch." Again, what could Brest, who wrote and directed this junk, have been thinking?
Al Pacino, whom Brest directed to an Oscar in the very bad "Scent of a Woman" 11 years ago, appears in one interminable scene as a New York crime boss. This one bloated moment may completely unravel Pacino's esteemed career from "The Godfather" to "Insomnia."
His expressionless, frozen face — though included in the film's trailer as a big deal — appears about three-fourths of the way through the film. It's not clear even if Affleck and Lopez, who Brest cuts to occasionally for stupefied reactions, were even on the set when Pacino delivers his numbing monologue. The fact that it ends in his character committing a sudden act of bloody violence doesn't help.
The only performance worth seeing in "Gigli" (which rhymes, Affleck says often, with "really") is another cameo, this one by Christopher Walken as a police detective. When Walken steps into the film, "Gigli" suddenly becomes full of color and oxygen — two things that Lopez and Affleck lack.
Unfortunately, Walken's scene is meant to explain the plot. But it's pretty clear that the actor has no idea what he's saying; he just says it so wonderfully that it doesn't matter. Watch the pause he takes at the end of the scene. It's a brilliant comment on the nonsense set before him.