The Movie Report
August 2003
Volume 1

#386 - 388
August 1, 2003 - August 15, 2003

all movies are graded out of four stars (****)

#388 August 15, 2003 by Michael Dequina


Freddy vs. Jason one-sheet Freddy vs. Jason (R) ** 1/2
I wasn't exactly looking forward to seeing Freddy vs. Jason, but when the familiar strains of the Nightmare on Elm Street theme music played as the New Line Cinema logo assembled, then followed moments later by the unmistakable sound of Friday the 13th slasher Jason Voorhees's breathing, there was no use resisting: I was geeked.

Thank goodness (or thank the devil?) for the fanboy novelty of this long-anticipated sequel/crossover of the two most popular icons of '80s-era horror movies, for that's about all Ronny Yu's film has to coast on. The script is overplotted to a fault (does anyone really care about the convoluted personal dramas of its non-slasher characters?) and filled with howlers delivered with maximum melodrama by pretty, glassy-eyed young things. But does it really matter? Horror fans have been waiting years for dream stalking Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and machete-wielding summer camp killer Jason (Ken Kirzinger, supplanting fan favorite Kane Hodder) to face off in a knock-down, drag-out fight, and the two-round bout (one in the dream world, one in the real world, natch) cooked up by Yu and screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift delivers and then some. This is no wimpy, rushed fizzle; roughly an entire third of the running time is devoted to the showdown, and there's all manner of grisly gore, glib Freddy one-liners and Jason slice-'n-dice one would expect.

Sadly, though, the basic design of the story also tilts the story in a direction that renders the proceedings fairly suspenseless. Powerless to haunt the dreams of Springwood teens, thanks to dream-suppressing drugs and the natural memory-fading that comes with the passage of time, Freddy comes up with a plan to reintroduce himself into the collective consciousness: revive infamous Camp Crystal Lake killer Jason to strike fear back into the citizens of Springwood--and, hence, bring Freddy back into their dreams. While Yu, Shannon and Swift pile on various would-be diversions, whether they be subplots--most prominent being the mystery involving the death of central heroine Lori's (Monica Keena) mother--or annoying characters (such as a shameless and completely unfunny rip of Jason Mewes's Jay character in Kevin Smith's movies), the deck is stacked in such an organic way that the outcome of the main event can be easily foreseen.

That said, the movie is a rollicking ride in that cheesy, nostalgic guilty pleasure sort of way. Yu is acutely, wisely aware that these guys really aren't scary at all anymore, so he has fun playing with and shamelessly wallowing in general circa-1980s slasher conventions, from the gratuitous nudity and sex (all taken care of within the first 15 minutes) to the ridiculously grotesque murders and equally overwrought exposition; and he also gets some good digs at the big guys themselves (mostly spouted by Kia, played by Kelly Rowland). Considering the obviously intentional throwback vibe, it's often difficult to tell whether you're laughing with or at the film, but either way much no-brainer enjoyment is to be had.

But Freddy vs. Jason's fun is of the completely disposable variety; the moment the end credits start, a certain feeling of "what now?" arises. In a sense, the same is felt about the slumming American career of the wildly talented Yu, whose gift for operatic romance--as seen in the masterpiece The Bride with White Hair--has gone untapped since making the move from Hong Kong to the States. But such questions fall by the wayside when, at long last, one can see Freddy terrorize the twisted nightmares of Jason and Mr. Voorhees chase Mr. Krueger around with a machete at Camp Crystal Lake.

In Brief

Uptown Girls one-sheet Uptown Girls (PG-13) * 1/2
I'm probably going to be crucified for this statement, but far be it for me to let a perfectly good glibber-than-thou quip go to waste, political correctness be damned: I don't advocate child abuse, but Dakota Fanning is a pretty strong argument for it. From her very first appearance in Boaz Yakin's chick flick coming out of a bathroom stall to her last in a ballerina tutu, Fanning practically dares the audience to throw sharp objects at the screen with her thoroughly obnoxious performance as the thoroughly obnoxious character of Lorraine "Ray" Schleine, the prissy, eight-year-old-going-on-40 daughter of an absentee record executive mother (Heather Locklear).

The film's original title was Molly Gunn, and that was more fitting, for the focus is thankfully on the character bearing the name, played by a well-cast Brittany Murphy. After losing the fortune left to her by her late rock star father, flighty party girl Molly gets a job as Ray's unlikely nanny. From this set-up--or, rather, from the first scene Molly and Ray share--it's easy to see where the film is going: Ray will teach Molly to be more mature, and Molly will teach Ray to have a little fun, not to mention Ray's mother will somehow become more attentive. That's all well and good, but getting to that ultimate destination is a trial, not only due to Fanning's insufferable presence but the abundance of unfunny slapstick gags (such as Molly tripping after breaking a heel or making a mess of a closet) and Yakin's sledgehammer sentimentality. Murphy manages to remain likable throughout, but that just makes one wish a better film were built around her.


Armaan DVD Armaan (Desires)
Movie: ***
Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Kapoor respectively play Siddharth and Akash, father-son doctors at a small town hospital, which the elder dreams of expanding into a state-of-the-art facility. An easy solution appears to come by way of spoiled rich girl Sonia (Preity Zinta), who offers to get her father to bankroll the hospital improvements--in exchange for marriage to Akash, who is in love with fellow doctor Neha (Gracy Singh). The melodrama is definitely a bit of the General Hospital variety, but there's an appealing and highly unusual understatement to writer-director Honey Irani's execution that keeps the proceedings involving without coming off too sudsy. The actors also invest a certain naturalism in their performances that keeps the drama rooted in reality--even Zinta, who, while obviously having fun cutting loose in a classic soap witch role (a nice departure from her normally bubbly persona), lends Sonia some tempering vulnerability. Irani stumbles when making the traditional populist concessions (read: the songs, which are an altogether forgettable lot and, quite frankly, the film would've been better off without them), but the uncommon restraint and intelligence with which she tells this story more than compensates. (Eros Enertainment)

Khushi DVD Khushi (Happiness)
Movie: zero stars
The inexplicably popular Kareena Kapoor continues to unimpress with her lack of any discernible talent, acting or otherwise, in this formulaic and generally dreadful romantic comedy. She plays the country girl title character, a typically Kareena brash free spirit introduced in a laughably bad ego/vanity trip of a musical number that goes down as one of Kapoor's most obnoxious screen moments ever (which says a lot). An omniscient voiceover narrator (Amitabh Bachchan, of course) tells the audience our heroine is destined to meet and fall in love with big city party boy Karan (Fardeen Khan), whom she meets at Mumbai University. Of course, many obstacles stand in the way of their fate, namely the pair's foolish pride and a series of sitcom-level misunderstandings. Kapoor and Khan do share some chemistry, but any fleeting iota of charm they may generate is cancelled out by their (and writer-director S.J. Suryah's) failure in just about every other department, mugging where emoting is required, convulsing instead of dancing in the musical numbers. Ultimately there isn't too much khushi to be experienced in Khushi. (Eros Entertainment)

Shakthi: The Power DVD Shakthi: The Power
Movie: ***
Aishwarya Rai and Shahrukh Khan reappeared onscreen together mere months after the release of Devdas in Shakthi: The Power (spelled Shakti on the box art and all promotional materials), but only in a secondary capacity--especially Rai, who only appears (as herself, no less) in a sizzling dream sequence/item number with Khan. Occupying the lead role here is Karisma Kapoor, who delivers a powerful performance as Nandini, fighting to keep her young son from the clutches of her husband's (Sanjay Kapoor) father (Nana Patekar), who is engaged in bloody family feud. While one naturally expects a hodgepodge of tones from Bollywood films, writer-director Krishna Vamsi fails to smooth the edges; an intense scene in which Nandini is locked in a room, for instance, is suddenly, jarringly followed by the buoyant Khan-Rai dance "Ishq Kamina." Intricately choreographed and nimbly performed by Khan and Rai, the sequence is spectacular and very sexy, but it is stunningly out-of-place; the same can be said of Khan's performance as a whole. While his character, a drifter, ultimately plays a pivotal role in Nandini's story, Khan's hammier tendencies are in full, annoying force here, and he's not helped by some lame wire-fu action scenes where the harnesses are clearly visible.

Eros's nice two-disc edition of the film includes a packed bonus disc featuring all the film's trailers and TV spots, behind-the-scenes featurettes on the film's action sequences and key musical numbers, as well as a collection of 30 complete (but, alas, unsubtitled) song scenes from other films by producer Boney Kapoor. (Eros Entertainment)

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#387 August 8, 2003 by Michael Dequina

In Brief

Freaky Friday one-sheet Freaky Friday (PG) * 1/2
Jamie Lee Curtis is a terrific comedic actress, and it's always good to see her get a chance to cut loose. And after making a strong impression five years ago in another remake of a vintage Disney family comedy, The Parent Trap, it is also good to see young Lindsay Lohan back in another major role. So what exactly went wrong with Mark Waters's big screen update (a TV movie remake was done in 1995) of the 1976 Barbara Harris-Jodie Foster mother-daughter body-swapping comedy? Certainly not the casting of the lead roles. Lohan has a preternatural poise that serves the role and the film well when her character morphs into her workaholic mother. Curtis is equally convincing as a rebellious teen trapped in a grown woman's body; if she perhaps overdoes the juvenile bit at times, her timing and energy more than make up for it. The blame lies squarely with the material presented to them by Waters and scripters Heather Hach and Leslie Dixon, who manage to fashion a sitcom formula film that at once tries too hard to be contemporary and "hip" (Can we please for once not have a young female-centered and -targeted film where the lead girl has musical aspirations of some sort? And the Wango Tango concert?) yet feels horribly dated (the jaw-dropping Chinese stereotypes) and hopelessly square (the afterschool special/TGIF-ready treacle, particularly with Lohan's younger brother).

S.W.A.T. one-sheet S.W.A.T. (PG-13) ** 1/2
Ask anyone about the mid-'70s TV action series S.W.A.T., and chances are the most common--if not the only--answer you'll get is a rendition of Rhythm Heritage's memorable, chart-topping theme song. That's no surprise at all since that was about the only distinctive element of what was essentially a by-the-numbers (and short-lived; it ran only two seasons) cops-and-robbers series--a fact highlighted all too well by the uninspired big-budget feature film version of the show.

Despite a solid, big-screen-worthy cast led by veteran Samuel L. Jackson and filled out by sturdy stars-on-the-rise Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez and LL Cool J (though the fifth principal player is the astonishingly talent-free Gallic import Olivier Martinez--I guess you can't have it all), this feature version of S.W.A.T. is still strictly small-screen. Director Clark Johnson cut his teeth and earned acclaim working on various television cop series (among them, Homicide: Life on the Street, in which he also starred), and while his perfectly professional work here shows promise, he's stymied by a screenplay that has the concept's tube-set origins too strongly in mind. The script, credited to David Ayer and David McKenna (from a story by Ron Mita and Jim McClain), plays like a two-part TV pilot; the first half is overly expository(complete with clanging, too-on-the-nose lines such as "S.W.A.T. stands for special weapons and tactics") devoted to Sgt. Dan "Hondo" Harrelson (Jackson) assembling and training his new team, and only at the halfway mark does the actual plot finally kick in. This wouldn't be such a problem if the story weren't so ridiculous: a captured international criminal (Martinez, just as laughable as he was in Unfaithful) makes a bold public offer of $1 million to whomever successfully breaks him free from custody, which then lights a fire under the ass of every single criminal element in Los Angeles, causing mass chaos in the streets. That every crook and random hoodlum would be so motivated is already a stretch; but with the offer coming from a greasy Frenchman with a sleazy accent? The hardest of gangstas would laugh at his desperate ass.

A certain level of preposterousness is par for the course in an action flick, but when there are no suitably exciting sequences, the logistical shortcomings are a bit more glaring, not to mention the outright careless errors; for instance, when Rodriguez's character says that she's reporting from a subway station at Figueroa Street, a sign behind her clearly reads "Wilshire/Normandie" (couldn't that have been covered up somehow?). Then there's the bizarre anomaly that is the constant referencing of the original television series, from the team singing the famous theme song at the dinner table to one of the guys watching the show at home, for the characters in the film share the exact same names as their television counterparts. The actors gamely go through the motions: Jackson is an appropriately commanding presence; Farrell again displays leading man charisma in the more central role of Jim Street; Rodriguez and LL Cool J do what they can with their limited roles. However good the cast may be (most of it, at least), an action film isn't quite doing its job when it doesn't boast a single truly memorable action sequence, and S.W.A.T. never quite rises above the level of merely watchable.

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#386 August 1, 2003 by Michael Dequina


American Wedding one-sheet American Wedding (R) ***
Who knew that when the original American Pie came out in the summer of '99 that the amiably raunchy teen sex comedy would evolve into--as the posters for American Wedding declare--a "saga"? This third Pie film is being billed as the "climax" of the series, and, quite frankly, now is definitely the right and natural time for these libidinous lads and lasses to toss out the baked goods once and for all. That's not saying, however, that they don't deliver on offering one last helping of good, dirty--and surprisingly sweet--fun.

It's interesting to trace the progression of the Pie series, as it mirrors the evolution of a long-running television series. It began as an ensemble high school piece, with each of its characters having their own individual storyline (that is, with the exception of Natasha Lyonne's token sounding board character); the second "season," if you will, followed the entire gang a year into college, with some characters being backburnered while scene-stealing secondary characters (namely, Seann William Scott's Steve Stifler) were pushed to the forefront. Now, for its final run, a number of no-longer-useful characters have been written out, leaving a streamlined core cast of fan favorites, all now fresh out of university: humiliation magnet Jim (Jason Biggs); the love of his life, kinky ex-band camp geek Michelle (Alyson Hannigan, the only major female holdover); the boorish, loudmouthed Stifler; and his mother's former lover, the cerebral Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), his mother's ex-lover. On second thought, scratch off that "fan favorite" qualifier, for the ever-nondescript space occupier that is Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) also returns.

But it's not like much attention is paid to Kevin, anyway, as the emphasis is squarely on Stifler. Even though the impending nuptials of series supercouple Jim and Michelle lends Wedding its title, it is the bit player in the original Pie that dominates this installment. Whether engaging in a disco danceoff in a gay bar, acting like a square in an attempt to bed Michelle's virginal younger sister Cadence (January Jones), eating an unusually unappetizing "chocolate truffle," or just cursing up a storm, Scott shows why, out of all the Pie cast members, he's gone on to have the biggest career. Subtlety may not be his strong suit, but no matter how repellent Stifler's behavior gets, Scott remains oddly magnetic; it's almost disappointing that Adam Herz's script has Stifler undergoing a slight mellowing arc.

"Slight" is the key word there, for the returning characters are still very much the people we've come to know and love. While the sex, gross-out gags and various indignities endured by the hapless Jim fuel the laughs for this film and the entire franchise, the key to the series' longevity is the audience's genuine investment in Herz's familiar characters. After all he's gone through, we want Jim to finally find happiness, and we want things to turn out well for everyone--even Stifler, with his selfish, sociopathic tendencies intact; even Kevin, however bland he may have been in the entire trilogy.

Of course, even though the word "wedding" is in the title, this is still a piece of the Pie, and comedy is the order of the day. What one expects is all here: raunchy gags, such as a would-be bachelor party gone hilariously awry; and gross-out bits, including the token embarrassments involving Jim's nether regions. But Herz and director Jesse Dylan don't completely lean on off-color stunts, for some of the best laughs, such as archenemies Finch and Stifler trading their respective personae to win over Cadence and Jim's father's (Eugene Levy) perpetual understanding of his son's extreme mishaps, are rooted in character and the actors' spirited performances. That extra dimension of (dare I say) humanity that Herz and his regular cast give the outrageous antics is why the entire Pie "saga" will be missed and hold a dear place in moviegoers' hearts--that is, unless, someone gets the not-so-bright idea to make a thoroughly needless American Honeymoon installment. Two words of warning to anyone who even entertains the thought: Just Married. 'Nuff said. (But, then again, that flick did do fairly decent business--arrgh!)

Gigli one-sheet Gigli (R) **
In the months leading up to the release of Martin Brest's Gigli just about the only positive bit of talk to emerge regarding the film was how its stars, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, fell in love and got engaged (though cynics would say that was the worst bit of news related to the film). Any talk of the actual film itself, mostly derived from anonymous Internet-spread reports, however, was downright brutal. Then came the usual tell-tale sign of a studio's lack of confidence: an eleventh-hour shift in the tone of the advertising campaign.

While there's no doubt in my mind Columbia Pictures and Revolution Studios don't have faith in the picture, the revamped promo campaign, which emphasizes the offbeat crime comedy element, is actually more in line with the actual film than the previous one, which rested almost entirely on the Ben 'n Jen romance angle. After all, while their respective characters, Larry Gigli ("rhymes with 'really,'" as he says early on) and Ricki, do engage in the expected love-hate sparring, they are both mob enforcers assigned an unusual task: to kidnap and then more or less babysit Brian (Justin Bartha), the younger brother of a federal prosecutor out to nail their big boss. Then to top things off, Larry's an oaf; Ricki's a lesbian; and Brian is mentally challenged.

Now, the above description--particularly that last sentence--may lead one to think that, as the vicious critical consensus maintains, Gigli is indeed an all-time, all-star catastrophe of Ishtar-like proportions. While I can't come close to saying that the version of Gigli seeing release is good, it certainly isn't completely devoid of charms, many of which derive from the character eccentricities and the actors' portrayals. The role of none-too-bright Larry Gigli gives Affleck an opportunity to translate his famously self-effacing off-camera persona to the screen to an extreme, and he obviously has fun with Gigli's buffoonish bluster--most of which is targeted toward Ricki, played with characteristically steely sexiness by Lopez. While Brest never really decides exactly what Brian's affliction is (autism? Tourette's?), Bartha nonetheless makes a pretty vague characterization on paper into an endearing person.

A greater sense of indecision is what ultimately plagues Gigli. Once Brest establishes the core trio of characters, he really doesn't quite figure out what to do with them. The film basically holes up the three of them in Gigli's apartment, and we wait along with them for something, anything to happen. In the meantime, though, there's a lot of talk--Brian making inappropriate outbursts; Larry doing a lot of would-be macho posturing; Ricki putting up no-nonsense defenses against his advances. While there undoubtedly are some good lines and memorable banter, particularly involving the latter two cases, a certain kick is gone because there's absolutely no suspense as to where the Larry/Ricki relationship is going; that Affleck's presence just brings to mind similarities to the superior Chasing Amy doesn't exactly help. Every now and again a different face pops up to stir the generally static three-character pot--Christopher Walken, Lainie Kazan, Al Pacino, Missy Crider as Ricki's lover Robin--but any jolt provided by each actor's single-scene appearance is fleeting and adds little to the bigger picture, if anything.

And that is the real reason why Gigli is a problematic picture. It's not Ben, not Jen, not the media phenomenon that is "Bennifer"--not even the oft-quoted, now-infamous "turkey time" line, which actually works a lot better than one would think in its proper context. The film simply doesn't add up in the end, with many characters and plot points introduced only to be left dangling as it speeds toward a wholly unsatisfying, resolution-free anticlimax of a finale--all the more disappointing in that, at certain points, it appears that Brest and company were working their way to a point.

...and, in its original incarnation, it actually did. Advance word on Gigli was that test audiences soundly rejected the film from the get-go, and any subsequent efforts to fix any perceived problems were even less well-received. While I cannot speak on the latter issue (though, given how the final version turned out, I would not be surprised), and I didn't look at the test cards, having attended the first screening last September, I have to say that the very origins of the film's infamously bad buzz were greatly exaggerated. Granted, the film lost a good deal of the audience during its rather bravely unexpected and unconventional conclusion (which would then be reflected in the test cards, as the ending is, of course, what sticks with most viewers immediately after), but the viewers were definitely with the film for most of its running time. But I suppose such a turn is enough to set off panicked Hollywood second-guessing, and now Gigli plays in theatres a much different film than it once was. Since it looks increasingly unlikely Martin Brest's original Gigli will ever see the light of day again, I feel a need to describe the differences in this original version to the best of my admittedly foggy memory (after all, it has been nearly a year since I saw this original version) to prove that, if nothing else, the film originally added up to something.


That said, there isn't too much in the way of concrete differences for most of either version's run time. Although some scenes (such as the detour to Larry's mother's house) originally lasted longer, the film plays more or less the same up to Al Pacino's cameo as mob boss Starkman, with the core trio of Larry, Ricki and Brian coming together in the exact same way, and Larry and Ricki sparring until she boldly declares "it's turkey time." One subtle adjustment, however, makes a difference. In the release version, the first real indication that Larry has any inclination toward leaving the criminal life behind comes late in the film, in a scene where he and Ricki talk in his car the morning after they consummate and right before the meeting with Starkman. Larry tells Ricki about his dream of finding "a clean place," and this revelation seems to come a bit out of nowhere, almost as a last-minute twist to send Larry on the road to Hollywoodized redemption. In the original cut, however, Larry's desire to leave the mob grind is established far earlier and much clearly, mere moments after the opening scene in the laundromat; we see Larry close his eyes and visualize this "clean place"--shown on screen as a pristine tropical beach overlooking an impossibly clear ocean. So when he finally makes mention of the "clean place" to Ricki, the audience knows exactly what he's talking about. Also, this once-recurring thread gives Larry a stronger link to Brian, as they are both--though Larry fails to recognize it--in a sense searching for "The Baywatch," thus turning what may seem like a cheap TV/pop culture reference into something a little more meaningful.

Not long after the scene with Starkman comes the scene with Larry, Ricki and Brian driving by the Baywatch, which, much to Brian's delight, is "open"--and after this point the two Giglis veer in wildly different directions. In the release version, the three then stop at the beach; Larry makes arrangements to return Brian home; Brian joins some sort of music video shoot on the beach and meets the Aussie girl of his dreams; Larry lets Ricki take his car to escape to parts unknown--only to have her return and pick him up, and the two leave Los Angeles and a life of crime. Fade out; credits. While a beach-set scene also capped off the first version of Gigli, there was still a good deal of movie left to go at this point, during which a number of the plot and character points left dangling in the release cut are resolved.

A number of points are resolved in a scene immediately after this first pass by the Baywatch. Larry pulls the car over by the side of a road, and Ricki finally comes clean to Larry, no doubt due to the violent scene at Starkman's place. She reveals that her real name is Rochelle, and she actually isn't a contractor--which then follows through on a number of points made earlier in the film: (1) during their first meet, Larry tells her that he hadn't seen her around before and didn't look like a contractor; and (2) Ricki's insistence on talking her way out of sticky situations, namely the confrontation with thugs at the fast food stand and the meeting at Starkman's. Ricki goes on to reveal that the actual hitwoman was her girlfriend Robin, whose single-scene appearance barging into Larry's apartment and slashing her wrists is rather bewildering without this payoff. She and Robin had some relationship problems, and as an as escape Rochelle tried to taste what Robin's life was like, and hence her showing up on Larry's doorstep. Since she was role playing, Ricki's "fence-jumping" with Larry makes more sense, as perhaps she did it because it was something she thought Robin would do; even "turkey time" makes more sense, as it was perhaps Rochelle's misbegotten idea of "tough" speak. But now having had her taste and then some after seeing Starkman kill Larry's higher-up Louis right in front of them, Rochelle tries to get Larry to pick up and leave with her. He declines, and so Rochelle takes her things and leaves him and Brian in the car. Rochelle is never again seen or heard from for the rest of the film; at the end there's no friendly reunion, let alone a lovey-dovey one. Not only does the loss of this scene harm the film from a basic story perspective, it also does a disservice to Lopez's performance. The entire crux of the character is in this scene, and, indeed, it is Lopez's finest moment in the film. With its deletion, what's left is a performance that can understandably be criticized as being an overly soft, less-than-convincing portrayal of a mob enforcer--because, after all, Ricki was originally conceived and performed as never being an actual one.

With Ricki/Rochelle gone, Larry decides to do the right thing and turn Brian in to Christopher Walken's cop character, Jacobellis, whose role was substantially larger than the cameo that now remains. The two meet up in a warehouse, where Jacobellis, in another showy Walken speech, reveals that he has been working for Starkman all along--thus showing to Larry that even the apparent good guys in this world are also corrupt. There's gunplay, and Larry ends up shooting Jacobellis dead. However, Larry catches a bullet himself, square in the gut. A visibly shaken Brian sees his wound--"You're bleeding, Larry," he matter-of-factly states in a noticeably more somber tone--but Larry insists that he's fine. Slowly bleeding to death, Larry drives Brian all the way back to the Baywatch; there's a certain bittersweetness as Brian's excitement contrasts against Larry's dying selflessness, and the rough cut's temp score (Hans Zimmer's familiar Gladiator music) effectively enhanced the mood. Much of what follows then progresses as seen in the release version: Larry urges Brian on to join the dancers on the beach; Brian meets the Australian girl. However, Larry's reaction shots are completely different; instead of being alive and upright, nodding along, Larry is lying on the sand, bleeding, dying, which then makes Brian's shyness and uncertain looks all the more understandable. The music (in the rough cut, the song was "Let's Get Loud," a track from Lopez's first album) and dancing starts and, as in the release version, the action eventually goes into slow motion. But then we end on Larry's face, as he looks to the ocean, which we see is the spitting image of his fantasy "clean place"--he's finally found it, and what led him there was, ironically, the life path he was hoping to escape.


The original version of Gigli was far from a great film; a few of my original issues survived the re-edits and reshoots, namely the vagueness of the Brian character and rather static situation of the core trio gabbing away in Larry's apartment for a lot of the running time. But this incarnation all the elements added up, not to mention justified what is widely held to be an atrocious title; the film really was a seriocomic study of Larry Gigli, a low-level, not-so-bright heavy whose existential crisis is brought to the boiling point when two outsiders infiltrate his world. Undoubtedly, it was pretentious, perhaps overly and delusionally so, given how jokey the film is for much of its running time. But it did achieve a certain level of poignance as, in the final stretch, this amiable makeshift family of misfits is torn apart--which is a much more honest and convincing conclusion than the poorly tacked-on sunniness of the release version's anticlimactic coda. But honesty and realism take a back seat to crowd-pleasing and, hence, the almighty dollar. Of course, such adjustments have proven to be all for naught, and one is now left to wonder how worse--or perhaps how better--Gigli would have fared with critics and at the box office had it been left untouched.

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