Spare a thought for the Gigli family. There they were, living in quiet dignity in Recanati, Italy, minding their own business and basking in the long, sun-dappled shadow cast by their illustrious ancestor - until last month, when the terrible news started to filter in from Hollywood.
Mamma mia, they must have thought, why must this happen to us? When Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck made a movie together, fell in love on the set and conducted an affair for all to see, why must it be Beniamino's sacred name that was attached to the enterprise? When the film was coming up to release, why couldn't the producers title it Hang Ten or The Enforcers or Abducting Egbert or whatever the bloody kid is called in this Mafia-kidnap farrago, rather than calling it Gigli and thereby trashing forever the reputation of the greatest Italian tenor of the first half of the 20th century? And - stronzo! - why did it have to be this damn movie, the one bearing his name, which is the newest laughing-stock on both sides of the Atlantic for its deadly plot, narcoleptic acting and rebarbative dialogue?
Isn't there a new Robin Williams film around for the smart-alec critics to turn their attention to? Oh no, that's right, he's been rehabilitated. Isn't there a new Madonna vehicle - drat, that's already come and gone too. Adam Sandler? Nope, he's considered OK now. Liz Hurley? Nope, she's been doing fine lately. So the Gigli movie will stay unchallenged at numero uno in the Rubbish Charts, and the Giglis will writhe for years to come in the mortification of having the family name associated with failure, bad taste, wastage of money and crap jokes...
Everyone who reads a paper must know, by now, that the least seductive interchange in the history of movie sex is when Ms Lopez parts her lovely legs on a bed and tells Mr Affleck, "It's turkey time," explaining her invitation with the encouraging words, "Gobble, gobble." It's a line destined for future museums of excruciating dialogue, right up there with Ronnie Reagan shouting, "Where's the rest of me?" on discovering his leg has been amputated in King's Row, and Victor Mature telling Hedy Lamarr, "Ye're beautiful in yer wrath" in Samson and Delilah.
Gobble, gobble... It's a far cry from "Your tiny hand is frozen," the aria from La Bohème with which the great tenor made his name. And Ms Lopez is a different kettle of pesce from the titular "Joyful Girl" in Ponchielli's opera La Giaconda, with which he made his debut in 1914. But then Beniamino Gigli himself, a man whose voice was so sweet that opera-goers swore that honey and sugar must issue from his throat, was aeons removed from the Gigli played by Ben Affleck, a thick New Jersey Mafia lummox with an accent borrowed from Luca Brasi in The Godfather. And some of his critics are no better, the ones who insist on referring to both character and movie as "Jiggly", as if it suggested some modern jiggery-pokery, along the lines of "Getting Jiggy Wid It".
The guy in the film is always telling people to pronounce his name "Jeely". Ms Lopez is famously known as "J-Lo". So we can imagine a moment in the future when someone says to someone else, "Seen any new movies?" and the other replies, "Yeah, I saw Jiggly. Or Jeely. With J-Lo? Gobble, gobble, y'know?" And we'll have reached a height of sophistication the other Jiggly, Ben Jiggly, poor sap, could never have dreamt of. Pity the poor famiglia.
In the meantime, I look forward to the release, any day now, of:
Caruso - terrible £20m campus rom-com in the mould of Clueless, starring Heath Ledger as Santino "Stud Muffin" Caruso, the ice-hockey jock who has to enter a singing competition to inherit two million bucks and win the hand of Casey Starbuck (Drew Barrymore). "Lamentable - see me after class" (The New York Post).
Lanza - shockingly bad £35m Western along the lines of High Sierra, about a dim Texas cowpoke Ernie Lanza (Tobey Maguire) who teams up with an ageing crone (Angela Lansbury) and a feisty young suffragist (Christina Aguilera) to bring crooked railroad boss Robert De Niro to justice. "Clanking" (Variety).
Terfel - tedious £2m British gangster flick set in Cardiff, starring Rhys Ifans as Gary Terfel, pickpocket and stand-up comedian, who steals a handbag belonging to Lady Nerys Wynn-Ellis, discovers that it contains a fortune in smuggled anti-wrinkle cream, and finds La Cosa Nostra are after him. "Pocket-billiards for the mind" (South Wales Echo).
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