Bennifer ... five years later -- EW checks in on J-Lo and Ben Affleck after their tabloid overexposure

By Margeaux Watson
Updated November 02, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

Before Brangelina, TomKat, and Vaughniston, there was Bennifer, the original blended-name celebrity couple. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez modeled themselves after Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor…but ended up more like Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson. It’s been five years since Bennifer fever, before flaming out with a broken engagement, two box office bombs (Gigli and Jersey Girl), and public exhaustion with their tabloid-fueled overexposure. (Yes, there was a time when such a thing existed.) Now — somewhat ironically — they’re both back in the headlines with projects aimed at resuscitating their careers.

Affleck has finally shoved off the poorly chosen mass-appeal movies that dimmed his star and returned to the place he knows best, Boston, for his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone. So far, it’s racked up a modest $11 million, but Gone is earning Affleck more critical praise and Oscar buzz than he’s had in years.

Lopez also revamped her public image in a bid for authenticity: This year, she released her first Spanish-language CD, Como Ama Una Mujer, and starred in El Cantante, a biopic of salsa singer Hector Lavoe, with third husband Marc Anthony. But both projects faltered, perhaps because audiences couldn’t get past Lopez’s iconic, career-making persona as a ghetto-fab fly girl who cooed about her bling in hits like ”Jenny From the Block.” Her more recent English-language CD, Brave, has also pretty much come and gone, with nary a hit. It’s sold just over 70,000 copies in three weeks, according to Nielsen SoundScan. (In comparison, 2005’s Rebirth went on to sell 727,000.) Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions — responsible for the recent box office dud Feel the Noise — also has yet to hit pay dirt. And her other passion project, two-year-old crime thriller Bordertown, still doesn’t have a release date.

Lopez has the drive to be a formidable businesswoman, so perhaps she should give just one project the same intense focus that Affleck dedicated to Gone. In doing so, he’s finally shed the slick luster of Bennifer — never a natural fit in the first place — while her frantic, see-what-sticks makeover only leaves Lopez looking more like a modern-day Charo. Seriously, her recent tour wardrobe hasn’t done her any favors (not to mention those pregnancy denials)! Here’s some advice, Jennifer: Take a cue from your ex, who’s learned that less is more.