Raising Victor Vargas

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez
Written and directed by Martin Brest
Running Time: 121 mins
Rated: MA 15+

This film received some of the worst reviews of 2003 and was a notable failure at the box office. This seems strange because, at the time, the stars, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were an item and planning marriage - which did not take place.

Writer-director Martin Brest has some notable films in his CV, particularly the first Beverly Hills Cop, Midnight Run and Scent of a Woman. He also directed Meet Joe Black. Scent and Joe Black were particularly long, moving at a stately pace and with some padding. This is one of the major problems with Gigli. It is far too long and inflated for its very slight plot. Ben Affleck has often seemed wooden in his performances and this is the case here. On the other hand, Jennifer Lopez has a lively screen presence. They are joined by newcomer, Justin Bartha, as a mentally impaired young man. There are brief cameos by Christopher Walken and Al Pacino (whom Brest directed in his Oscar winning Scent of a Woman) which lift the energy somewhat.

Affleck is a petty gangster, a loner dominated by his mother (Lanie Kazan in a bright cameo). When he is asked to abduct the impaired young man and finds Lopez as an unwilling partner, he bumbles along, finds that she is lesbian, is asked to cut off the young man's thumb... And then they find themselves in the clutches of Pacino as a big-time gangster. Will they escape, will they find romance, will the young man get to go to the Baywatch beach which is his main ambition in life? The film spends two glossy hours answering these questions which are not really (rhymes with Gigli) of major moment.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.