So far, the most wholesome, unexpected pop culture news of the year has been the out-of-nowhere reboot of Bennifer. In this age of division & strife, isn’t it nice that we can all gather around to celebrate two smoking hot millionaires who love boning each other? JLo beaming in her Vegas wedding gown; a scruffy Battfleck taking dad-naps on yachts with his hand resting gracefully on his bride’s world-famous ass . . . Everything just feels right again. It’s worth remembering, though, that even something as beautiful & pure as Bennifer was born the darkest, dankest of pop culture dungeons – just as every rose has its thorn and every cowboy sings his sad, sad song. Jennifer Lopez & Ben Affleck first fell for each other on the set of the 2003 crime “comedy” Gigli, which lost roughly $70mil at the box office and was instantly reviled as one of the worst motion pictures of all time. Starting off on such a sour note would have tanked most couples, but Bennifer soldiered on to collaborate on such beloved art projects as Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl, JLo’s “Jenny from the Block” music video and, of course, an endless procession of tabloid headlines. May they never separate again.
In case you’re as morbidly curious as I am, and you also happen to find a used DVD copy of Gigli at your local thrift store, please know that it is a total “DEAD DOVE, DO NOT EAT” proposition. There is no room for critical revisionism here. Gigli is just as bad as originally reported. It’s worse than bad, actually. It’s deeply embarrassing. It’s an early-aughts hangover from the post-Tarantino 90s, the kind of wryly overwritten gangster comedies like Get Shorty & Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag that were convinced saying “fuck” every three words was all you needed to seem funny & cool. Affleck appears in greased hair & loose bowling shirts as the titular Gigli (a name he hates hearing pronounced “jiggly” or “giggly”, which means you should definitely go for it). He’s a low-level gangster assigned by his higher-ups to kidnap the brother of a federal prosecutor as political leverage before a mob-busting trial. Only, the hostage in question is an intellectually disabled horndog who acts like a toddler with the world’s biggest boner for Baywatch. Queasy hijinks ensue as the uptight, macho Affleck butts heads with the loveable goof in his care. Then things get even queasier when he’s forced to co-parent with a fellow low-level gangster played by Lopez – a lesbian that Gigli is determined to convert through the seductive power of unchecked machismo (positioning the film as Elmore Leonard’s Chasing Amy).
The frustrating thing about Gigli is that the sexual chemistry between Lopez & Affleck is genuinely explosive. The basic premise of a macho gangster wooing his way into a lesbian’s bed is boneheaded, but it actually leads to some interesting sexual power dynamics between the two leads. The meathead argues his case by expounding upon the natural marvel of dicks & dildos in faux-philosophical monologue, and his lesbian adversary shoots back that “The mouth is the twin sister of the vagina” with equally mighty inanity, giving him lots to chew on (“gobble gobble”). She warms herself up to the idea of sleeping with the galoot by softly forcefemming him, making him question his own gender identity – a kinky undercurrent made even more arousing by how rottenly into each other Bennifer obviously are out-of-character. It’s too bad, then, that every other aspect of the movie is so deeply unpleasant and determined to self-sabotage. Every time their unlikely, problematic romance heats up, it’s quickly deflated by the film’s catastrophic choice of comic relief: the neurodivergent tics of its only disabled character. Their hostage raps to old-school hip-hop tracks in a “funny” voice; he shouts random catchphrases as if he has Tourette’s; and he just won’t stop slobbering over the boobs on Baywatch. It’s not just unfunny; it’s cruel. And it ruins any enjoyment that could possibly be found elsewhere in the picture.
If we’re rebooting Bennifer in the 2020s, maybe it’s time we also reboot Gigli as a straight-up erotic thriller. Drop the ableist punchlines and just stick to JLo breaking down her new husband’s gender barriers in a steamy power struggle at the outskirts of the crime world. The only problem there is that the erotic thriller version would definitely stick to the film’s original, discarded ending, in which the lesbian character was shot dead for her moral transgressions (because of course she was). You know what? Scratch that. Let’s never speak of Gigli again. The return of Bennifer has given us all a culture-wide goofball smile, and there’s really no reason to spoil that vibe with a return to its sour beginnings. Unless, of course, you really need to see JLo model the low-rise jeans, exposed midriffs, and gigantic belt buckles of early-aughts fashion. It’s at least good for that.