For once, the critics agree.

“Nearly as unwatchable as it is unpronounceable” said Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times.

“Torpid, slack, dreary and, oh yes, nasty, brutish and long” wrote the Washington Post’s Stephen Hunter.

“Jaw-droppingly nutty” said Christopher Kelly of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

No, they’re not talking about the California recall campaign. They’re talking about “Gigli” – the Jennifer Lopez-Ben Affleck bomb that opened Friday.

The film is challenging the summer blockbusters for buzz quotient – too bad it’s the wrong kind of buzz.

Only time will tell if “Gigli” is spectacularly awful enough to qualify for the pantheon of true cinematic losers that includes “Ishtar,” “Showgirls” and “Myra Breckenridge” – each one unforgettable, no matter how hard you try.

Lopez and Affleck met while making “Gigli,” fell in love, and soon became America’s media darlings. When they announced their engagement in December, “Gigli” became one of the year’s most eagerly anticipated movies.

Friday, the intersection of bad art, worse publicity and media saturation produced a perfect storm of bad reviews.

Rotten Tomatoes, a website that posts movie reviews from all over the country (www.rottentomatoes.com), officially declared “Gigli” the worst-reviewed film of the year. Of the 88 reviews it surveyed, all but four were withering pans. And two of the critics who liked it were Canadian.

The buzz was so bad that even before the movie opened, Ben and Jen promised that they would never work together again, as if that might somehow inoculate them against any backlash. It didn’t.

It was difficult for some critics to decide which offended them more: the switch-hitting lesbianism of Lopez’s character, the treatment of the story’s mentally handicapped victim as “a punching bag,” or the bizarre dialogue that features Lopez’s memorable sexual come-on, “It’s turkey time – gobble, gobble.”

Attempts to describe demurely the demented dialogue occasionally met with results such as A.O. Scott’s summation of that scene in the New York Times as “an extraordinary debate about the relative merits of the penis and the vagina.”

One sharp-eyed critic – Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald – noted that this was not even the first movie in which Affleck had exerted himself trying to convert a woman to heterosexuality. He did the same thing in the 1997 film “Chasing Amy.” “The guy is lesbian kryptonite,” Rodriguez wrote. “Gigli’ now conclusively proves no gay woman on the planet is immune to Affleck’s studly charms.”



(c) 2003, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).

Visit MercuryNews.com, the World Wide Web site of the Mercury News, at http://www.mercurynews.com.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099):

AP-NY-08-05-03 0613EDT



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