Ambidextrous 327- Why Bad Boys Matters

One of my favorite movies of all time is Michael Bay’s feature directorial debut Bad Boys, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence…

I’d without question declare it not only that, but one of the most “important” movies I’ve ever seen, approaching the level of the original Star Wars, which for me is about the highest level of praise I’m capable of giving anything. For without George Lucas’ story of a galaxy far, far away, we likely wouldn’t even be having this conversation about the large bit of inspiration gleaned from a movie that really anyone who treasures a great, well-written script with fully developed characters might have some trouble endorsing. But while the movie barely registers on any kind of critical barometer, here’s why Bad Boys actually matters—to me, anyway.

It was the first movie in my relatively young life that I’d seen which featured two black male leads, who didn’t spend the entire movie tossing shitty jokes back and forth, and/or making absolute fools of themselves in the name of cheap (and often stereotypical) laughs. Yes, there are shitty jokes in the movie, and the entire thing (as well as every piece of bonus material that’s ever been attached to it) implies that much of the script was heavily ad-libbed right on set, but to a young aspiring writer and comics/movie nerd, Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett were a special kind of inspirational awesome. A representation of true possibility that even with slightly underdeveloped opinions about the portrayal of black characters in modern media, felt incredibly unique and refreshing.

Which was not at all what I was expecting when I first heard about the movie, mind you. Still remember it like it was yesterday—my best friend coming back from a movie (The Devil’s Own, I’m pretty sure) completely losing his mind over a trailer attached to it. He told me the movie was called Bad Boys and that Will Smith and Martin were starring.  My instant response was, “So it’s a comedy?” And he replied, “No, no…it’s an ACTION movie.” Naturally, I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard. How in the world could the main stars of wildly successful sit-coms The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Martin be in an action movie playing drug cops? Does that make any sense to anyone? Anyone!? But damn if the whole thing wasn’t one of the most important two hours I’ve ever spent doing anything.

I can literally quote the entire thing from memory, and you know, I realize that some of my nostalgic feelings about it stems from the silly childhood notion that me and my friend would one day grow up to play cops, or superheroes, or Jedi Knights, or something else cool, in movies that we’d also co-written. And in the same way Star Wars opened this little door in my brain, the reality of seeing Martin and Will onscreen playing lifelong friends and kick-ass cops seemed even more impossible than The Force and a planet destroying battle station. It completely re-defined what I considered a “black movie” at the time, and provided yet another creative benchmark to strive for—something that just happens to be awesome on its own merits, and that just happens to have black lead characters in it. Even today, that’s still something of a rare occurence, which of course is a larger continuing discussion for another day.

But today, I just wanted to share some of the reasons why Bad Boys will always be my absolute favorite “bad movie” of all time, and a movie I took a number of great things from, which I’m hoping will ultimately inspire the creation of more great things. I’ve bought it in every format it’s ever been released in, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I eventually end up with the Blu-ray version once the price comes down a little bit.

Now that second one is pretty awful though, and passionately embraces some of the buffoonery and excessive stereotyping the first somehow lacked.

I mean, yeah, I do in fact own it, but there certainly won’t be a column defending it ever…

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2 Comments

Filed under Ambidextrous

2 responses to “Ambidextrous 327- Why Bad Boys Matters

  1. BT- just read your newest AMBI, and it’s a great take on pop culture. Being a suburban white guy (not without Mad Flavor mind you), i never gave a second thought about race. I thought BAD BOYS was an action movie that evolved out of Buddy Cop 80s films like Ed Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop pumped up on steroids, sans Glen Fry soundtrack and Axel F digital beats…

    With that said, BAD BOYS was a game changer because audiances were familiar with the leads from goofy sitcoms, and BOTH were African American, and it did indeed appeal to mainstream.

    Great job, and great take on this column

  2. Thanks, Jimmy—was a teenager when this hit theaters, and I’d missed a lot of the buddy cop hits from the 80’s (I had those parents that seldom let me watch rated R movies when I was young) so that might be another reason Bad Boys was such a personal revelation for me. But you’re right that Martin and Will’s sitcom pedigree made the notion of this movie initially suspicious to a lot of people, but when people say that Will Smith became a full fledged MOVIE STAR here, they’re right on the money. Some people go straight to Independence Day, but without Bad Boys, there wouldn’t have been any of that saving the world from aliens stuff…

    B

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