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What The Rotten Tomatoes Reviews Are Saying About Bad Boys For Life

Bad boys, bad boys, what'cha gonna do? Well, if you're Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, you're gonna return for a third installment of the action-comedy franchise — and, while you're at it, you're gonna win over some critics in the process.

Reviews are coming in for Bad Boys for Life, the first appearance of Smith's Mike Lowery and Lawrence's Marcus Burnett since 2003's Bad Boys II — and they aren't half-bad, with many reviewers pegging the flick as a solid installment in a franchise which was long thought to have flatlined.

In case you need a refresher, Smith and Lawrence's wisecracking Miami narcotics detectives made their first appearance in 1995's Bad Boys, which was the feature directorial debut of future Master Kaboomsmith Michael Bay. While the flick wasn't a critical darling, it was a box office hit, thanks largely to its stars' comedic chemistry and improvisational gifts.

Bad Boys II rocked a much bigger budget, much bigger explosions (Bay was really coming into his own at that point), and an even bigger star (so was Smith). While it nearly doubled the box office take of the original, that whopping budget kept it from being considered a major success, and critics were even less impressed than they were the first time around.

This time, though, the franchise is looking to finally get into those critics' good graces; as of this writing, Bad Boys for Life is certified fresh on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Belgian directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah took over from Bay. Let's dig in to those reviews.

How are the positive reviews pumping up Bad Boys for Life?

Sean O'Connell of CinemaBlend answered the question most fans are likely to have right off the bat: Lawrence and Smith have still got it. "These actors just click," he wrote. The odd-couple formula isn't groundbreaking, with Smith easily occupying the bulletproof playboy role and Lawrence personifying the reluctant family man with one eye on retirement. But no matter how much time has passed, the two actors with comedic backgrounds maintain a razor-sharp rapport that helps Bad Boys For Life sizzle in between its explosive action sequences."

Collider's Matt Goldberg agreed, while also opining that the flick benefited from its exploration of its wise-ass leads' family lives. "Bad Boys for Life... [retains] the ridiculous action of Bad Boys II while discarding the go-for-broke mentality in favor of a story about the importance of family," he wrote. "And honestly? It works!"

Even some critics slightly disillusioned by Hollywood's tendency to drag old franchises out of mothballs were more or less won over. "[Bad Boys for Life] is decisively the best of the trio; it actually has a heart, or what passes for one in a gigantic, slam-bang industrial enterprise like this," wrote Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter. "It's impressive and enjoyable to behold how easily Smith and Lawrence slide back into these characters and actually make them more accessible and fun to be around than before."

Perhaps the only praise Bad Boys for Life needed, though, was that bestowed on it by Leigh Monson of Birth.Movies.Death. "It's funny as hell and the action is great," he wrote. "What more can you ask for in a Bad Boys movie?"

How are the negative reviews finding fault with Bad Boys for Life?

Of course, there were plenty of reviewers who fell into the "we didn't need another Bad Boys movie" camp, including some who (somewhat surprisingly) actually preferred the originals, like Evan Dossey of Midwest Film Journal. "Incoherent and interminable, but not in the glorious way audiences have grown to love from former franchise visionary Michael Bay, Life is a true mid-January studio writeoff," Dossey wrote.

Other negative notices dismissed the flick as a money grab, a tired return to an expired movie franchise by aging stars. "There's nothing here to justify the film's existence or reward the looooooong wait of those fans who have been expecting this movie for more than a decade," opined ReelViews' James Berardinelli "It's more of the same: Violence-saturated eye candy used to buff Smith's ego and inflate his bank account. It serves its purpose: an attempt to re-start a dormant franchise to give Sony another bankable series."

The most vicious review, though, was turned in by Slant Magazine's Jake Cole, who saw some truly insidious forces at work. "Bay doesn't direct... Bad Boys for Life, leaving one to wonder what purpose this franchise serves if not to give expression to his nationalist, racist, and misogynistic instincts," Cole wrote. "Glib entertainments like Bad Boys for Life [play] a part in normalizing the increasing police-state tactics and mentality of our nation's over-armed law enforcement."

A pretty damning assessment of an action-comedy three-quel, but we suppose that's the nature of film; one viewer's buddy cop picture is another's endorsement of the police state. At any rate, Bad Boys for Life is pulling down generally better reviews than its predecessors; we'll see how far that carries it at the box office. The flick opens wide on January 17.