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. "Bad Boys II"

Either no one ever advised producer Jerry Bruckheimer that less is more, or the message just didn't get through the vault-thick ego that banks on being brasher than anybody. He and his backers have bloated their budget to what could be a breaking point in order to bring us an action sequel bursting with overstatement and excess.

It's zeal times two as Miami narcotics cops Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) get their buddy chops into a case involving hundreds of millions on the importation and distribution of the drug, ecstasy . Little do they know that the DEA has an undercover agent inside the gang who, it happens, is Burnett's sultry sister, Sydney (Gabrielle Union - "Cradle 2 the Grave", "Deliver Us from Eva"), a lady who is so well put together that wearing a bikini could blow the air conditioning.

Now, the two buddies share a lot of things, but Lowrey has neglected to bring his borderline hysterical partner up-to-date on the meet in New York that he had with the hottie, nor on the relationship that came out of it. This proves to be a point of friction between the pair since their relationship is too strained to support lies, deception or omissions. Burnett is just too bitchy about it and, furthermore, can't stand anyone sis Syd chooses to mess around with.

This theme surfaces like a helium-filled submarine along the shore of Miami Bay where Burnett treats Lowrey to a family barbeque and loses his portable swimming pool when the dog yanks the moorings. Did I say this is a comedy with two comedic geniuses doing an endless routine on each other and the bad guys?

Speaking of which, there's extreme-badass crimeboss Johnny Tapia (Jordi Moll…) to take down. And Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano) breaks some kind of dippy dialogue record for his boilerplate histrionics about wanting his star team to get the drug off the street and the brass off his back. Well, the case takes them from Miami to Havana, from car and truck chases to big pyrotechnics, from dialogue to dynamic supporting music. On the more tasteful side, the track features such as Justin Timberlake, Mary Blige and Snoop Dogg. Check it out.

It's all very excessive, most especially the patter in which the boys attempt to make their brand of mutual mockery funny and funnier. But, it's dumb and dumberer. There are laughs, but it grows thin and before it ends, the fruits of humor turn rotten, like when our heroes root around in human cadavers searching for drugs and money, when the corpses lose heads under screeching car wheels, and in the particualry crass case of rat intercouse. Really writers, does boxoffice pressure turn you into such promoters of the banal? Or, maybe raunchy taste just creeps in when you have a committee of writers (George Gallo, Ron Shelton, Jerry Stahl, Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, to name a few of the suspects).

Oh, do I wish for another "Independence Day" kind of role for the huge talent of Smith. He actually gets through this with charm and charisma intact. His gift, however, was far better realized in "Men in Black" and "MIB II" than in this overdone, souped-up sequel to a successful 1995 original.

Action standout is the tight timing of the truck-on-the-bridge chase that destroys 22 cars and a boat, a piece of action footage that's in a league with the reknowned freeway chase in "The Matrix Reloaded"... until repetition drains its tank in an episode of a movie that never seems to detect its limits. When the action takes us to Cuba (with Puerto Rico subbing) we are treated to yet another car chase down a hill covered with shanty shacks. While conceptually original (maybe not?), I couldn't help wondering how many innocent lives would have been suddenly lost if it were real. Having the audience think such thoughts is the price of overdoing a good thing.

No action will be deficient in a Bruckheimer film. But, it's like an overtickled funny bone - it becomes numb when you can't think of something better to do. Scenes with production values like these shouldn't be allowed to get tedious. But, they were (allowed to) and the team of writers brought in to make it work should be slapped on the wrist as they're ejected from the studio gates (to get to the bank before it closes).

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Michael Lawrence, Gabrielle Union and Will Smith
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