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Gigli

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Welcome to Hollywood's dog days of summer, and to the Great Dane of August: Gigli -- a movie so misguided, so idiotic and so pretentious that you almost begin to feel sorry for it.
What can you say about a romantic-dramedy where a distraught lesbian slits her wrists after a shrill tirade against her ex-lover, or where exotic fish feed on the brain matter of a guy their owner just killed? Sort of douses the romantic part of things, wouldn't you think?

Gigli was written and directed by Martin Brest (Scent of a Woman), and you can see him stealing from what's worked for others: It's ersatz everything, from Elmore Leonard and The Sopranos to some of Brest's earlier successful action/caper movies, like Beverly Hills Copand Midnight Run. But none of it works in this pathetic mish-mash, unless you consider falling in love with a lesbian the ne plus ultra of middle-brow hip.

The movie's title refers to Larry Gigli (rhymes with "really"), a macho buffoon of a mob contract killer and enforcer who, despite working in Los Angeles, and having been raised there, has a New York accent. We meet Larry (Ben Affleck) as he's strong-arming a guy in a Laundromat, and soon he gets his next assignment: Extract Brian (Justin Bartha), a sweet, gentle, mentally challenged young adult -- like Rainman, sans savant -- from the group home where he lives, and hold onto him for a while.

The kidnapping goes smoothly because Brian leaves willingly when Larry promises to take him to see "the Baywatch," although Larry doesn't know what the histrionic lad means by that (turns out it's a metaphor for love and intimacy). Back at Larry's apartment, Brian settles down. Then, there's a knock at the door. It's Ricki (Jennifer Lopez), Larry's new neighbor, who wants to use his phone. And of course, the hit man concealing the kidnapped brother of the DA who's prosecuting his East Coast boss lets her walk right in.

Turns out she's a mobster, too (Larry's bosses know he's a fuckup). So the two spend Brian's captivity driving him all over town in plain sight and falling somewhat in love with each other, even though Ricki's a lesbian.

Seriously, people: The plot of Gigli has so many holes that you could go spelunking in it. In what clumsily passes for cultural insight and sophistication, Ricki talks about girl-on-girl cunnilingus (while doing her stimulating floor exercises), gives Larry the look-at-your-fingernails masculinity test (he fails) and offers a 60-second aperçu of the philosophy of Sun Tzu.

Affleck and Lopez actually aren't terrible actors. They're just not good enough for delicate material like this -- not that anyone could have rescued it anyway. And so the only pleasure to derive from Brest's two-hour blunder -- which, one prays (but doubts) he means to be a parody -- comes from three droll one-scene cameos: Christoper Walken as an oddly malevolent cop; Lainie Kazan, the J-Lo of her day, as Larry's buxom, overbearing mama; and Al Pacino as the slightly fey, way-over-the-top mob boss, who has an unorthodox way of feeding his fish.


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