Popular media gave attention and interest to the film during production, primarily because Affleck and Lopez, the film's stars, were romantically involved at the time. After release, however, critical reaction was universally negative, and in the years since its release Gigli has been considered one of the worst films of all time. The film was also one of the most expensive box office bombs in history, grossing $7.2 million against a $75.6 million budget. As of 2017, it is the last film Brest has directed, making it his longest hiatus between projects.
Larry Gigli (Ben Affleck) is a low-ranking Los Angeles mobster who isn't nearly as tough as he likes to act. Louis (Lenny Venito), a higher-ranking member of Gigli's organization, commands Gigli to kidnap the mentally challenged younger brother of a powerful federal prosecutor to use as a bargaining chip to save New York-based mob boss Starkman (Al Pacino) from prison. Gigli successfully convinces the young man, Brian (Justin Bartha), to go off with him by promising to take him "to the Baywatch", apparently a reference to the television show of that name, which seems to be Brian's singular obsession. Louis does not trust Gigli to get the job done right, so he hires a woman calling herself Ricki (Jennifer Lopez) to take charge.
Gigli is attracted to Ricki, but he resents both Louis' lack of faith in him and having to take orders from a woman. He is also frustrated by Brian's insistence on going to "the Baywatch" and by Ricki's being lesbian. A suspicious detective (Christopher Walken) comes to the apartment to question Gigli in reference to Brian's disappearance. Gigli is further annoyed when his mother (Lainie Kazan) takes an immediate liking to Ricki and when the two women team up to needle him.
The events take a darker turn when Gigli and Ricki receive orders to cut off Brian's thumb, something that neither wants to do. Worse, Ricki's ex-girlfriend, Robin (Missy Crider), shows up at Gigli's apartment, accusing Ricki of changing sexual orientation prompting her to attempt suicide by slitting her wrists and is rushed to the hospital, where she thankfully survives. While there, Gigli sneaks into the morgue and cuts off a corpse's thumb, which he sends to the prosecutor as Brian's thumb. Gigli and Ricki go back to Gigli's apartment, where Gigli confesses his love and the two sleep together.
They are summoned to meet with the mob's boss. Starkman reveals that he did not approve of the plan to kidnap a federal prosecutor's brother or the order to cut off Brian's thumb. He nevertheless rages at them because the thumb they sent didn't match Brian's fingerprint, and therefore not only failed to increase pressure on the prosecutor but even undermined the organization's credibility. Starkman then kills Louis, presumably in retaliation for the kidnapping and associated scrutiny by law enforcement. Starkman is about to kill Ricki and Gigli as well, but Ricki talks him out of it by pointing out that only they know where Brian is and only they can silence Brian and prevent him from revealing the involvement of Starkman's organization in the kidnapping or even accusing Starkman of having been personally involved. They leave Starkman's, decide to leave the mob, and discuss taking Brian back to where they found him. On the way, they discover Baywatch (or a similarly themed show or film) shooting an episode on the beach. Brian begs to be let off there and finally they consent.
Gigli convinces Ricki to take his car to escape to parts unknown; but at the last minute, Ricki returns to pick up Gigli, and they leave town together.Ben Affleck as Larry Gigli
Jennifer Lopez as Ricki/Rochelle
Justin Bartha as Brian
Lainie Kazan as Mrs. Gigli
Al Pacino as Starkman
Lenny Venito as Louis
Christopher Walken as Detective Stanley Jacobellis
Missy Crider as Robin
Terrence Camilleri as Man in dryer
The film was shot on location throughout Long Beach and Los Angeles, California from December 2001 to March 2002.
Brest intended to make a much darker and more violent 160 minute version of the film, which would have included Larry being killed off at the end by Christopher Walken's character. Walken's role was substantially larger than the cameo that now remains, but test audiences reacted negatively. The film is known to have suffered through an assortment of re-writes until the Bennifer romance became one of the biggest celebrity stories of 2002. Columbia, wanting to cash in on the media craze, forced Brest into removing 40 minutes of footage and altering many sequences to make the film a romantic comedy while retaining the crime elements. With the rewrites and reshoots, the movie's budget ballooned from $54 million to $75.6 million.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a rating of 6%, based on 183 reviews, with an average rating of 2.7/10. The critical consensus states: "Bizarre and clumsily plotted, Gigli is a mess. As for its stars, Affleck and Lopez lack chemistry." On Metacritic the film has a score of 18 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "overwhelming dislike".
On Ebert and Roeper, critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper both gave the film thumbs down, although Ebert showed some sympathy towards the film, stating it had "clever dialogue", but was "...too disorganized for me to recommend it". Roeper called the film "a disaster" and "one of the worst movies I've ever seen". He then included Gigli on his 100 worst films of the decade at #7.
Ebert and James Berardinelli were two of the very few major critics to not write it off completely. Ebert gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying, "They didn't quite get to where they wanted to be, but the film is worth seeing for some very good scenes." Berardinelli gave it two stars, saying, "This isn't a good film, but, when set alongside the likes of Dumb and Dumberer and Legally Blonde 2, Jen & Ben offer less pain."
Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman gave the film a "C+", stating "A watchable bad movie, but it's far from your typical cookie-cutter blockbuster. There are no shoot-outs or car chases, and there isn't much romantic suspense, either."
One of the few positive reviews came from Amy Dawes of Variety, who wrote that the story was ludicrous and that the film would tank, but that on balance she found it a fun film with several good performances.
Gigli grossed $3,753,518 in its opening weekend from 2,215 theaters averaging $1,694 per theater and ranking #8 at the box office. The film set a record to date for the biggest second-weekend drop in box office gross of any film in wide release since that statistic was kept; it dropped by 81.9% in its second weekend compared to its first, grossing $678,640. By its third weekend in release, only 73 US theaters were showing it, a 97% drop from its first weekend. The film ultimately earned $6,087,542 domestically and $1,178,667 internationally for a total of $7,266,209 on a $75.6 million production budget.
The film was withdrawn from US theaters after only three weeks (one of the shortest circulation times for a big-budget film), earning a total of only $6 million domestically and $1 million abroad. In the United Kingdom, the film was dropped by virtually every cinema after critics panned it.
In 2014, The Los Angeles Times listed the film as one of the most expensive box office flops of all time.
The film was nominated for nine and received six Razzies in the 2003 Golden Raspberry Awards – Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst Actress, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay and Worst Screen Couple. A year later, the film won a seventh Razzie for "Worst Comedy of Our First 25 Years". The film was also nominated for eleven and received five Stinkers Bad Movie Awards in 2003; Worst Actor and Worst Fake Accent - Male, Worst Actress and Worst Fake Accent - Female and Worst On-Screen Couple.
Its title was named by the Global Language Monitor as one of the top worst from Hollywood having an impact on the English language in 2003. Late night talk show hosts in particular lampooned the film in their monologues; Conan O'Brien said "The Mets are doing so badly that they will be renamed 'The New York Gigli.'"
Yahoo! Movies rates Gigli number one on their Bottom Rated Movies of All Time, with a critics' rating of D−. The Onion, a satirical newspaper, ran an article about the film, titled "Gigli focus groups demand new ending in which Affleck and Lopez die."
In May 2015, The Hollywood Reporter named Gigli #25 on its list of "50 Worst Movie Titles of All Time".