A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bad Boys for Life is the third movie in the Bad Boys series, which stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as violent, bickering Miami narcotics detectives. This one takes place 17 years after Bad Boys II, and it's just as noisy and busy as the others. Expect lots of over-the-top action violence, with guns and shooting (including a high-powered sniper rifle), blood spurts, dead bodies, fighting, hitting with blunt objects, stabbing, explosions/fire, car chases and crashes, and more. Constant strong language includes countless uses of "s--t" and "f--k," as well as other words (including a use of the "N" word). Women in a club are ogled/objectified, and there's some crude sex-related talk, mostly played for laughs. Characters drink on social occasions and at celebrations, and a supporting character uses cocaine. The main story is based on revenge, and there are mixed-to-problematic messages about consequence-free violence.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In BAD BOYS FOR LIFE, Miami narcotics detectives Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) have been partners for 25 years. But when Marcus becomes a grandfather, he starts thinking about retiring. Meanwhile, Mike, who wants to keep being a cop, is shot by a mysterious assassin. While Mike recovers, Marcus promises God that he won't bring any more violence into the world. Mike decides to go after the shooter himself, but the captain (Joe Pantoliano) pairs him with a new, young team of computer specialists (Paola Nunez, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, and Charles Melton). Before long, Mike finds a clue to the villain's identity -- and it has something to do with his own dark past. For the final showdown, Marcus realizes he can't let his old partner down.
Is it any good?
Coming nearly two decades after the last entry, this third buddy-cop continues with the series' same kind of cluttered, noisy filmmaking, but now it's accompanied by a sense of pained weariness. Belgian filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah take over for original director Michael Bay but continue with his chaotic style -- i.e. the logic of a scene doesn't matter as much as how big it is. It's often exhausting trying to follow the haywire chronological and spatial logic of the action in Bad Boys for Life, as characters move through space and time at different rates, depending on what the plot needs.
As for the "boys," they're now in their 50s, and Lawrence in particular looks like he's in physical pain most of the time, as if he can barely move. His comic timing is off, too: His profanity-laden zingers have lost their sharpness. The rest of the characters are so thinly drawn that they're lucky if they get a single character trait. (Poor Hudgens' character has none, except for a bleach-blonde cornrow hairstyle.) Smith at least proves he's a pro by selling a few of his one-liners and soul-searching speeches, but even he can't keep the phrase "for life" from sounding like a punishment.
Talk to your kids about ...
How is sex talked about in the movie? Why is it done with humor? What values are imparted? What would the effect be if it were discussed seriously?
Two of the characters try to be non-violent but are encouraged back into violence. Are there consequences for these actions? Is violence seen as a good thing?
How does the theme of family (or bonds of friendship) run through this series? What are the positives and negatives of these relationships?
Are these law enforcement characters positive role models in any way? Why or why not?
- In theaters: January 17, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: April 21, 2020
- Cast: Will Smith, Vanessa Hudgens, Martin Lawrence
- Directors: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong bloody violence, language throughout, sexual references and brief drug use
- Last updated: December 8, 2020
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