J.Lo and Ben Affleck in Gigli's official poster
6 Times J. Lo & Ben Affleck's Gigli Earned Its "Worst Rom-Com Ever" Reputation

I watched it so you don't have to.

by Ani Bundel
Sony Pictures

After nearly two decades apart, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are dating again. The lovebirds were a huge celebrity couple when they first got together in 2002, ushering in an era of celebrity couples who were bigger than the sum of their parts. But one aspect of Bennifer’s paparazzi-perfect relationship stands apart from all else, namely because it was such a disaster: Gigli, the film that brought the couple together in the first place. You may be tempted to watch the movie and see why it’s so despised, but there’s no need. Instead, just check out the worst moments in J. Lo and Ben Affleck’s Gigli. Trust me, you’ll get the gist without having to endure the full 121 minutes of mess.

Warning: This post contains spoilers from a nearly 20-year-old film that you should not spend your money on. Unlike their current relationship, which fans can breathlessly follow with every social media post, Affleck and Lopez’s first relationship played out not on Instagram or Twitter, but rather in the tabloids, on MTV and E!, and — most importantly — on the red carpet. The two actors met while filming Gigli in early 2002, and rumors swirled that their romance bloomed on set, partially driven by Lopez’s subsequent divorce from her then-husband Cris Judd that followed. So all eyes were on Gigli when it premiered in 2003. The film — which told the story of Lopez and Affleck as a pair of gangsters forced to work together after their mutual boss has them kidnap a federal prosecutor's teenage brother — must have been seriously hot and steamy, right?

But despite featuring the hottest couple in Hollywood at the time, Gigli was a flop. That’s largely because the movie is from a genre of film that doesn’t really exist anymore. When most people think of movies that came out in 2003, they think of the classics: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Love Actually, and Elf. But in the world before streaming, studios filled movie theaters with, well, a lot of filler. (Think of all those tiles on your Netflix queue that you scroll past, rolling your eyes and wondering how and why they got made.) Does anyone remember Ned Kelly? Bulletproof Monk? Le Divorce? All three starred significant celebrities of their time; all have disappeared into the garbage can of cultural memory.

Gigli would be a forgotten footnote in an IMDB list if it weren’t for Bennifer. That’s what it deserves. But for those still not convinced they should let the movie lie, let’s run down the worst parts of Gigli:


The Wannabe-Tarantino Scenes

Quentin Tarantino changed the face of gangster-movie cool in 1994 with Pulp Fiction. By 2003, when Gigli came out, his opus, Kill Bill, was about to hit theaters. The filmmaker was super popular with both critics and audiences alike. As such, the wannabe-Tarantino vibes that pervade this movie are like noxious fumes.

There are multiple instances of ham-fisted attempts at Tarantino-style dialogue, starting from the opening scene in which Affleck’s Larry Gigli (which, for some reason, rhymes with “really”) puts a would-be victim in a dryer and recites a faux-snappy little monologue. The worst was when the film stops dead to allow J.Lo to randomly spout quotes from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and other “Eastern wisdom” to prove how “smart” she can be and how “deep” the film is in its pseudo-philosophy. The funniest is when Christopher Walken walks in, dressed just like he is in Pulp Fiction, and spends five minutes monologuing before exiting back to whatever film set he accidentally wandered in from.


The Abuse Of Brian

The plot of Gigli centers around Larry traveling from New Jersey to L.A. to kidnap Brian (Justin Bartha), a federal prosecutor’s younger brother who has mental disabilities. He’s under orders to do this from his boss, Louis (Lenny Venito), who wants to use the kid as a bargaining chip to keep mob boss Starkman (Al Pacino) from going to prison. Ricki (Lopez) comes into the picture because Louis is afraid Gigli isn’t up to the task and sends her in as his minder.

It would be bad enough for the film to have this stereotype of a teenager with mental disabilities, but that he’s played by a non-disabled actor in what appears to be a bad attempt at Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man performance makes it all the worse.

Further, the situation is played as comedy, because the kid is unable to understand these crooks have kidnapped him and are holding him hostage. But there’s really nothing funny about watching people slap him around and scream everything from verbals [verbal] insults to outright slurs. Cringe does not begin to cover it.


Larry’s Homophobia

Then there's the movie’s rampant homophobia. Gigli is supposed to be a rom-com, featuring Lopez’s Ricki and Affleck’s Gigli meet-cute over an ill-thought-out kidnapping. Except there’s one small problem: Ricki is supposed to be a lesbian. The whole joke of the film is that she’s just not that into him. Except, of course, she is. By the movie’s end, sex with this bigoted dirtball has somehow magically made her attracted to men, and they ride off into the sunset together.

In one of the film's big "piece-de-resistance" scenes, Gigli goes into this rant while driving around L.A., during which he’s supposed to be revealing how much he loves Ricki and how heartbroken he is that she doesn’t love him back. But the actual monologue is a sexually frustrated, incel-esque meltdown in which he screams what someone thought to be cleverly-punned homophobic slurs. And this scene is supposedly the beginning of him winning her heart? Sure, Jan.


Ricki & Larry’s Love Scenes

With that in mind, let us turn to Ricki and Larry’s “love scenes,” in which they flirt, get into bed, and eventually have sex. The thing of it is, Bennifer does have a weird sort of chemistry in the film, but the script demands keep getting in the way. Like, if you squint, you can almost see the rom-com that’s supposed to be happening. But the dialogue, not to mention the horrific set-up, is so bad that it all just comes out ludicrous.

Worst of all, when the film finally gets to their sex scene, it isn’t even sexy. It is so startlingly bad it has to be seen to be believed. Ricki invites Larry to perform oral sex by saying (and I quote!), “It’s turkey time. Gobble, gobble.” It doesn’t matter how sexy the actual sex scene after that is, even when the two shut up and let the sheets fall where they may. There’s no coming back from that.


The Sexual Euphemisms

If “it’s turkey time” wasn’t bad enough, there’s a second sex-driven subplot in this movie, which seems to want to crib sexually naughty plot points from an early 1980s frat house-based comedy and have that be a laugh-driver.

The script dictates that Brian is obsessed with women and sex. To that end, he constantly brings up “the Baywatch,” which Gigli is too dense to understand means “women in bikinis on the beach.” Gigli is able to pull off the initial kidnapping of Brian by promising to take him to “the Baywatch,” which gives Brian plenty of excuses to talk about how much he likes watching “the Baywatch” and how it gives him (yes, I’m quoting again) “pee sneezes.” Please don’t watch this movie.


Al Pacino, Why Are You Here?

In case this movie couldn’t get any more ridiculous (and not in a good way), Al Pacino walks in and flat-out dismisses the entire plot.

Al Pacino, as in the Academy Award-, Golden Globe-, BAFTA-, Emmy-, and Tony Award-winning Al Pacino. He plays Starkman, the NYC gangster Gigli has been ordered to do this all for, even though it turns out he really shouldn’t have done any of it. Starkman shoots Louis dead because his plan is boneheaded. He then threatens to kill both Gigli and Ricki, but the latter’s wisdom impresses him, so he doesn’t. Instead, he gesticulates wildly, yelling that anyone with a brain would never have done any of this, and that everyone should just go home.

“I am very concerned about the way things have turned out here!” he declares.

Basically, Al Pacino is all of us.

Gigli is available via a subscription to STARZ or for streaming rental on YouTube, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu, but do yourself a favor and skip it.