Monday, April 6, 2015

Does Bad Boys hold up 20 years after its release?

It's Madam Secretary, After Earth guy and Black Knight, together in one movie, yo.
What I said about Bad Boys as an "eye Teen Reviewer" for the San Jose Mercury News back in 1995 (April 14, a week after Bad Boys' April 7 opening, to be exact), word for word and with every single Merc style guide preference preserved, straight off a clipping I still have of my own article:

'Bad Boys' is fun — for a formula movie

Jim Aquino

THE cop-buddy comedy "Bad Boys" (not to be confused with the 1983 Sean Penn prison pic of the same name) is the latest flashy action movie from the Simpson-Bruckheimer assembly line, which has churned out such blockbuster hits as "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Top Gun."

Directed by Michael Bay, the genius behind the popular, Clio-winning "Aaron Burr?" milk commercial, "Bad Boys" sticks to the tried-and-true formula that made Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer big-name producers back in the '80s: gaudy visuals, extravagant action sequences, a big-time soundtrack and a script that's high on concept and low on subtlety.

After producing a low-profile film such as the dark, dialogue-driven comedy "The Ref," it appears that Simpson and Bruckheimer want to go back to making big, dumb movies again. "The Ref" worked because it fit star Denis Leary's edgy, verbose persona, and never tried to soften Leary's cynical humor. "Bad Boys" could have been as satisfying as "The Ref," if its script were as clever overall as the snappy, entertaining interplay between its two leads, sitcom stars Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.

Lawrence and Smith, playing mismatched Miami police detectives Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowery, rise above the formulaic cops-vs.-heroin thieves plot to deliver top-notch performances. "Bad Boys" runs too long at more than two hours, but it remains watchable because of these charismatic, energetic stars and their fast, funny and often improvised delivery.

"Bad Boys," originally written for Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz, is strong on visuals, thanks to first-time director Bay, who must have watched a lot of Tony Scott movies. The Miami setting is wonderful to look at, and the set pieces are well-staged.

But "Bad Boys" suffers from uninteresting bad guys and a story line that offers few surprises, aside from the amusing subplot in which neurotic family man Burnett and smooth ladies' man Lowery switch identities. Tea Leoni, who was so memorable as the sexy bohemian girlfriend on the short-lived sitcom "Flying Blind," plays a key witness.

"Bad Boys" isn't original or groundbreaking, but it's fun and entertaining, thanks to Lawrence and Smith.

Typical Michael Bay subtlety

What I think about Bad Boys in 2015, on the day before the date of the 20th anniversary of its release:

Of all the movie reviews I wrote for the Mercury News while in high school and then college, the mixed review of Bad Boys--at that point in his filmography, the Fresh Prince had just won over critics because of his big-screen debut in the film version of Six Degrees of Separation, but he hadn't made Independence Day yet--is one of the only two or three reviews where I still stand by every word. For instance, Michael Bay was at his best as a director of commercials like that classic "Got milk?" ad (although putting the words "Michael Bay" and "genius" in the same sentence back then makes me cringe); The Ref remains a terrific antidote to Yuletide mawkishness; and I still can't remember the name of Burnett and Lowery's boring nemesis. Like Dana Gould did when he couldn't remember the name of the villain Ben Gazzara played in Road House, I'm just going to call their boring nemesis Drago.

All the other reviews I wrote back then can go in the shredder. That was the biggest problem with being a film critic for print media. If some part of your opinion about a film would change (and my opinions sometimes do), you couldn't go back and change what you said in print like you can now easily do on a blog or in digital media.

Aside from a clunky and racist bit of attempted comedy where Shaun Toub--a.k.a. Dr. Yinsen from the first Iron Man flick--shows up as a stereotypical Middle Eastern convenience store clerk (an ominous sign of comedic things to come in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) who racially profiles Lawrence and Smith because of the visible guns in their holsters, Bad Boys remains one of Michael Bay's few tolerable movies. That's mainly due to the dialogue between Martin and Will ("Don't be alarmed, we're Negroes"), the most enduring part of the first Bad Boys, which cost only $17 million to make. I prefer smaller-scale Michael Bay over larger-scale, giant-robot-testicles-flashing Michael Bay, which is why I never bothered to watch 2003's much bigger-budgeted and longer-in-running-time Bad Boys II, even though Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were seen worshiping Bad Boys II in Hot Fuzz, an Edgar Wright film that trounces Bad Boys in all sorts of ways, simply because it's an Edgar Wright film (I hear 2013's Pain & Gain is supposed to be a return to Bay's smaller-budgeted roots, but I haven't seen that one yet either).

The Bad Boys original score by Mark Mancina still holds up too and hasn't aged poorly at all. During "AFOS Prime" and "Beat Box" on AFOS, you can hear a previously unreleased version of the film's dancehall-influenced main title theme, Mancina's "Prologue - The Car Jacking," taken from La-La Land Records' out-of-print Bad Boys score album and featured below. (The Bad Boys song album's not too shabby either. I remember practicing to get my driver's license to the sounds of Diana King's dancehall-style "Shy Guy.")

If you still find Bad Boys--or Drago--to be too generic for your tastes, perhaps reading Shield creator Shawn Ryan's mostly sardonic live-tweets of Bay's Bad Boys DVD commentary while he watched Bad Boys for the first time ever in 2012 will make the film go down easier. "Michael goes silent on commentary for a few minutes," tweeted Ryan, who actually likes the movie, during a lull in Bay's pontifi-bating. "Perhaps he took a break to write nasty email to Megan Fox."

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