Vulgar, brazen, crass, violent, stupid, juvenile, loud, long and pointless — “Bad Boys II” is all that, plus a thin slice of entertaining. Said to cost $160 million — the 1995 original was built for $23 million — “Bad Boys II” is from gilded bad boys of plexertainment: producer Jerry Bruckheimer (“Pearl Harbor,” “Armageddon,” “The Rock,” “Coyote Ugly” and — best in ugly — “Con Air”) and his favored directorial tool, Michael Bay.
They not only raise the bar of opportunism, they skull-crack us with it.
The scene is Miami, every vista glowing like a layout for the posh magazine “Luxury Corruption.” Marcus (Martin Lawrence) and partner Mike (Will Smith) are back as narcs pledged to double duty: to collar nasty crooks, and to tickle the audience with so much cute bonding humor that, by comparison, Abbott and Costello were monks praying in separate stone cloisters.
They kick off this party by blowing a major drug bust while messing up a Ku Klux Klan rally at the drop site for smuggled dope. They do a cop-buddy dance to confuse the rednecks, the merriment giving way to a slow-motion bullet ripping through glass to pierce Lawrence’s butt, which leads to later levity and the volcanic tantrums of their boss (Joe Pantoliano, even his hair stiff with rage).
Gabrielle Union is a narco-yummy who wears bikinis for risky undercover work, and Jordi Molla is a Cuban drug don who looks like Andy Garcia after a hairy makeover for “American Idol.” This thug likes hiding cash and drugs in eviscerated corpses, and in a chase scene (but not the one that wrecks 22 cars and a boat), nude bodies in plastic sheets bounce from caskets and become, well, posthumous road kills.
Only a Bruckheimer BBQ cooks quite like this: a body smashing a phone booth that explodes like a jewel box; a mural of the Cuban mobster as Jesus Christ; a “semi-official” commando raid into Cuba; a guest cameo by Dan Marino; gaudy Miami vice, plus some anti-Castro uplift; a berserk Russian hood (Peter Stormare) on a sort of “Scarface” suicide trip; a wild Cuban granny firing a shotgun; iguanas to set off alarms and land mines; the partners scaring a nice teenager by pretending to be ghetto nutballs.
After you’ve seen Smith acting his heart out (and into a great character) in “Ali,” it’s a bit disheartening to see him back as a stale prince of jive schtick, shouting, “I think I done just got mad!”
Lawrence, the comic, tries to play the more serious partner, speaks of therapy and spirituality, but then goofs through an Ecstasy jag.
In a way, Jerry Bruckheimer is an idealist. He gives us not story, but the idea of story as gooey plot pizza; not violence, but the idea of violence as cartoonish pulp; not style, but the idea of style as shiny pictures for gaping apes; not comedy, but the idea of comedy as compulsive imbecility; not fun, but the idea of fun as a migraine of lavishly cheap jolts.
No doubt he prefers the word “concept.”
David Elliott is the movie critic of The San Diego Union-Tribune. © 2003 by the Copley News Service.