Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bland Boys

A while back, I happened upon a card in my mailbox that allowed me one free month of Netflix. I finally got around to starting it up, and I have to say, it's been a great way to get caught up on a bunch of movies and TV shows I've been wanting to see. Apart from watching every episode of Dollhouse, a few snippets of the X-Men cartoon, and the entire first three seasons of Breaking Bad, I also got around to watching 31 movies I hadn't seen before. Let me tell you, it was immensely refreshing to be able to watch a free movie online that didn't have obnoxious Korean subtitles taking up two-thirds of the screen.

Anyway, two of those Netflix movies are what I'd like to talk about today: a pair of action-driven, Michael Bay-helmed epics called Bad Boys and Bad Boys II.

What piqued my interest about these particular movies was the fact that everyone seemed to really like them, especially the second one. I remember the first one coming out and just being a quiet hit, but once the sequel released...everyone everywhere was talking about Bad Boys II. Friends, neighbours, fellow movie buffs, & casual movie fans alike all said it was a total must-see movie. I'd never seen either of the Bad Boys, but I love Will Smith (who doesn't?!) and I can tolerate Michael Bay films (mostly). I thought Armageddon was decent and I enjoyed the Transformers series. So I thought, hey, let's give Bad Boys a shot. From what I gathered through popular opinion, this franchise took a page from Chris Nolan's Bat-book, i.e., the first movie was a big success, but the twice-as-long, twice-as-hyped, twice-as-big, twice-as-expensive sequel was the true star of the series.

Fair enough, I thought. I'm all yours, Mr. Bay. Let's see what you've got.

Upon finally viewing these two movies, my verdict is...confused. Maybe I'm dyslexic and I've been horribly mixing up all of the hype surrounding this series, but Bad Boys II was way, way, WAAAAYYYYY worse than its predecessor.

The first Bad Boys had a really clever and cute little plot twist whereupon Martin Lawrence's character Marcus (a jittery, straight-edged family man) has to pretend to be Will Smith's character Mike (a smooth-talking, oversexed playboy) in order to secure a witness in a very important police case involving stolen heroin. That was neat, and totally not something I expected to see in a Michael Bay movie. It was fun to watch these characters struggle uncomfortably out of their element. It reminded me of the classic mistaken identity farces of Hollywood's Golden Age, and it really helped put an emphasis on the second half of that "action-comedy" nametag this series likes to wear proudly on its lapels.

Bad Boys II, on the other hand...well, I can actually review that movie without using a single word, simply by rolling my eyes and scoffing. But since you can't exactly see me doing that, here are some words.

Everything that made the first movie cool and funky and different and fun is gone. Bye-bye. Instead, prepare yourself for two hours and twenty-four minutes of non-stop, groan-inducing action movie cliches that are so in-your-face that I kept thinking I was watching a Wayans Brothers parody of a cop movie instead of the genuine article. It left we wondering if Bay and his writers had ever even seen The Last Action Hero. Literally every cop movie stereotype that The Last Action Hero makes fun of is in Bad Boys II, and they're not even being used ironically. Hero cop gets shot, but it's just "a flesh wound"? Check. High-speed car chase filled with explosions where a lot of innocent people get hurt but the cops don't seem too bothered by it? Check. Cops using flashy sports cars instead of standard-issue police cruisers? Triple check. Mismatched partners getting in silly arguments? Check. A police station that looks nicer than the main lobby of a Ritz-Carlton hotel? Check. A chief who spends every second of his screen time yelling at the two lead cops about how the Mayor is up his ass? Check. A lame, stock villain whose only character traits are "evil" and "drug lord"? Check. Slow-motion hero shots of the main characters firing their guns in a way that isn't practical at all, but it's okay because it makes them look "badass"? Check check check check che...well, you get the idea.

Are those cliches bad? Absolutely not. They're fun and exciting and moderation. But considering that the first Bad Boys broke the mould a little bit and gave us something with a neat little spark of originality, you can understand how disappointed I was that the sequel decided to just take a shit all over that and play their safe cards from The Overused Buddy-Cop Stereotype Handbook for Dummies. What's especially puzzling is how everybody said they loved it so much more than Part 1.

Remember how I said that almost everyone loves Will Smith? Well, this movie doesn't just love him...this movie takes every single opportunity to get down on its knees, grab Will Smith by the balls, suck him off until he's satisfied, and then says, "Thank you, Will Smith, may I have another?" It was almost embarrassing to watch. I wouldn't be surprised if Bad Boys II's official movie poster was just Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam with the Fresh Prince's face superimposed over God's.

What, then, should Bad Boys II have been? Well, if you ask me, I think it was the perfect opportunity for a classic role-reversal. Take another popular movie series for example: in Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear had to deal with the fact that he was a toy. Woody kept trying to explain to him exactly what that meant, and was constantly reminding Buzz of his responsibility to Andy. In Toy Story 2, Woody was the one dealing with an identity crisis, and it was up to Buzz to bring him back. Buzz even went so far as to echo Woody's famous line from the first flick: "You are a child's plaything! You. Are. A. TOY!" If the first Bad Boys was about Martin Lawrence struggling to pretend that he was a man-whore bachelor, then Bad Boys II absolutely could have worked if it was about Will Smith struggling to pretend (for similar reasons, perhaps) that he was a happily-married suburbanite with three kids. And if they really wanted to stick to the Toy Story formula, then Bad Boys III could be about them being transferred to a different precinct, and then somehow they end up in a giant furnace room holding hands and accepting their inevitable fate, only to be pulled out of harm's way at the last second by Joe Pantoliano.

At the end of the day, what I'm most curious about is: why? Why was Bad Boys II so universally acclaimed while its superior predecessor goes largely unmentioned? Why does this mediocre sequel overshadow the better work that came before? Jaws 2 didn't overshadow Jaws. Terminator 3 didn't overshadow T2. The Return of Jafar didn't overshadow Aladdin (thank fucking Lord). Is Bad Boys II a "bad" movie? On its own, not at all. As part of the series that the first one started, though...yeah, a little bit.. What do YOU think of Bad Boys II? Perhaps this is one of life's mysteries that simply wasn't meant to be solved. Or maybe we're just better off not knowing, because the answer might turn out to be "People prefer dumb stuff". And that would just be sad.

1 comment:

  1. The difference between I and II, in my opinion, is Michael Bay became the sociopathic, insane, lovable?, FUCK he is between the two films.

    I think Bad Boys II was so "acclaimed" at the time because it was that stupid cop style thing but done right. I don't know, I didn't like it as much. For what it was, (read: Stupid cop action BANG BANG movie) it was perfect. I guess.

    P.S. Netflix ROCKS!