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The J.Lo Down: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez make an argument for pre-emptive divorce in 'Gigli.'


Ben Affleck meets J.Lo in the year's worst. No, make that the century's worst.

By Richard von Busack

Jennifer Lopez urges her new boyfriend to get orally busy on her own expensive self: "It's turkey time. Gobble, gobble!" Gigli gets jiggy, as the young cutting-edge person of 1998 would say.

R-rated though Gigli is, we don't follow through on this Lubitschean "gobble, gobble" with a new version of that famous taboo shot from Louis Malle's The Lovers: Alain Cluny disappearing out of the frame as he heads for Jeanne Moreau's once-much-dreamt-about principal erogenous zone, followed by a close-up of the actress doing that ethereal "a little to the left, not so hard" face.

Since Lopez has that boss made-for-the-camera visage, this action would have perhaps been worth a few dollars. Nope. Instead, it's all turkey-talking and no action--and Ben Affleck's smirk as he twirls Lopez around, like spaghetti in the tines of a fork in an all-too-conventional sex scene. A dose of cinematic saltpeter that Lopez's Ricki--as a purported lesbeen--keeps trying to subvert by getting on top.

Yes, she "jumps the fence," as the film so charmingly puts it (perhaps an uncredited touch by Kevin "Chasing Amy" Smith?). Yet J.Lo attests that she is a lesbian for the purposes of ... what, sexual tension?

If I were a straight girl, Affleck would turn me lesbian in jig(li) time. The damn poster tells us Ben and J-Lo are getting together. Even the mentally challenged citizens this film mocks can figure it out.

It sure is turkey time. Gigli, pronounced "Jeelie" (Hindustani for "cream-puff actor"), features Affleck as a man of that unpronounceable Italian name, a New York wise-guy floating around L.A. He's assigned to kidnap the brother of a judge, the better to pressure the justice to lay off a Mafia don. The brother, Brian (Justin Bartha), has Rain Man syndrome--repeats stuff, is cute, worships Baywatch, acts as surrogate child, Big Bad Bills become Sweet Williams around him.

Gigli is considered too stupid to monitor Brian on his own (though not too stupid to kidnap him in the first place--what gives?). So Lopez, a fellow "contractor," is assigned to oversee Gigli. Thus Rain Man Jr. acts not only as a raison d'être for a mismatch but also as a chaperone to make sure our stars don't clinch before the popcorn runs out. And that's the movie--up to the point where they're supposed to send the dummy's thumb to the judge to scare him.

As the don, Al Pacino has a raging scene that stirs the audience from its drowse, but the real high point comes when Old Man Walken walks on. Playing a cop with a stench in his nostrils--the script or perchance Affleck--Christopher Walken baffles the cast with improvised bullshit. The climax is his suggestion that they go to Marie Callendar's, there to put a plate of pie a la mode on top of Affleck's square head. "I betcha'd slap yourself silly getting to it!" Walken says with frightful twinkle-eye. And then, out of the movie he goes. Adieu, prince of players. Walken-break's over, back on your heads.

In a later instance, J.Lo delivers a gross piece of dialogue about gouging out a punk kid's eye that's supposed to show how feisty she is. How are you supposed to get back into the romantic comedy mode after this Jacobean Sonny Chiba speech? What are you supposed to think when she follows up a threat to thumb out a kid's eye with "Stay in school, kids!"

How do you retain respect for the film after this whopping insult to the "sisterhood" (i.e., lesbians) when Ricki's discarded girlfriend, Robin (Missy Crider), walks in and slashes her arteries (those crazy dykes!).

Or how do you take Lopez seriously after this extended exercise scene--doing yoga, self-praising her yoni, "which I proudly call my pussy," she says, whilst barely able to pronounce the dreaded word! If a man's got to brag, he's the first one to sag, as they say in Bakersfield. Is there a female version? If a gal's got to boast, she's dry as toast?

As for J.Lo's exhaustively praised butt, it's vaunted and flaunted and has gone pert near as far as it can go. Lo, how lo can you go, a lo-est common denominator lo-brow movie like this with its bloody blown-out-brains sequence and slurs like "clam licker" bruited about?

The truth is, writing about this bonbon, I'd felt like starting out with a rhetorical question like "Friends, when a chimpanzee throws something unmentionable at you, do you endure it or throw it back?"

Gigli (R; 124 min.), directed and written by Martin Brest, photographed by Robert Elswit and starring Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck, Christopher Walken and Al Pacino, plays at selected theaters countywide.

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From the August 6-13, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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