Ben and J. Lo may ask me over for dinner after this, because I ' and apparently only I ' liked Gigli. The movie's been trashed from coast to coast, as if critics had been sharpening their teeth for months. But what's not to like? Okay, the title, which nobody seems to know how to pronounce. At the ticket counter, I said ZHEE-lee, which is how The New York Times said to pronounce it, and the woman looked at me like I'd just flown in from France. Maybe I had, because the movie struck me as quintessentially American: rude, crude and out for a good time. It's no Prizzi's Honor, a movie it bears a passing resemblance to. But it made me laugh and it almost made me cry. What more do you want?
Better leads, perhaps. (There goes my dinner invite.) As mob henchpersons, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are just two darn sweet. Yes, I know they're supposed to be sweet, but they're even sweeter than that. You can't imagine either one of them actually hurting somebody. But I enjoyed their verbal sparring, he as a dem-dose kind of guy who's not going to wind up running the Mafia, she as a them-those kind of gal who just might. Except, oops, she's a lesbian, which gives this romantic comedy a nice twist. Call it Booty and the Beast. She's perfect for him, but he's too much of a...guy. Affleck got a lesbian to switch sides in Chasing Amy, at least for a while; and, wouldn't you know it, he does the same thing here. Jerry Falwell must love him.
Gigli has a Rain Man thing going. Newcomer Justin Bartha plays a psychologically challenged young man who gets kidnapped by Affleck, then watched over by Affleck and Lopez, who are also supposed to be watching each other. It's all very cozy, the three of them forming a pleasantly dysfunctional family. And none of it would work if the script, by director Martin Brest (Scent of a Woman), weren't pitch perfect. Speaking of which, Christopher Walken and Al Pacino, charter members of Overactors Anonymous, each get a chance to steal the movie, Brest supplying them with arias of eccentricity. But Hollywood's Hottest Couple isn't giving up that easily. They don't chew the scenery so much as nibble on it, winning us ' me, anyway ' over one crumb at a time.