Unnecessary franchise update is a sign of the times

Another creaky, aging franchise is reborn as a frantic actioner aimed at the “Fast & Furious” crowd. The jokes fall flat, and the endearing cop duo at the film’s center retains little of the chemistry they shared in the ‘90s.

The “Bad Boys” idea never evoked weighty pathos. The first film, released back in 1995, took advantage of a high-concept combination of Will Smith’s movie star charisma and Martin Lawrence’s everyman comic persona. Now, 25 years later, the timing is off.

In one scene, detective Mike Lowrey (Smith) has a breakdown in front of his partner Marcus Burnett (Lawrence). And Smith is bringing it—red eyes, flowing tears, loose nose, shaky speech. He’s well into the emotions of the scene. When the camera cuts to Lawrence, he gives a blank expression, conveying nothing. After a beat, there’s a sarcastic, comedic retort. It’s meant to make us laugh, but instead, because the two actors are on such different levels, I was jerked right out of the film.

The inconsistent tone is repeated over and over, with diminishing effectiveness. And, while I have a soft spot for Martin Lawrence, faithfully watching every episode of his sitcom “Martin” back in the 1990s, he’s not able to match Smith’s intensity. It’s a thankless job.

Read Jonathan’s full review online and in print in the Times-Herald:

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