The Screen Critic: Will Smith’s ‘Bad Boys 4’ return, a crowd-pleasing Garfield adventure and a doco about the notorious Ashley Madison site

Jun 07, 2024
Source: Getty Images.

Just when you thought the career of Will Smith was in a terminal tailspin, along comes Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the fourth film in the action-comedy franchise he started with Martin Lawrence way back in 1995. (That’s 29 years ago. Can you believe it?)

Ordinarily, this very entertaining, action-crammed buddy movie would land as just another crowd-pleasing weekend blockbuster.

But after the disaster of 2022 when Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars over an innocuous joke, Smith’s public standing has fallen sharply as fans deserted him and movie deals were cancelled. The fear was that his public appeal was so damaged he’d never headline a big film again.

Yet five minutes into Bad Boys 4 you forget all about The Slap That Shook The World as Smith and Lawrence exchange barbs, speeding through Miami on their way to a wedding.

With the film’s humour and hyper-kinetic style in keeping with the other BB films, this lark follows detectives Mike and Marcus (Smith and Lawrence) as they embark on an explosive quest to clear the name of their beloved former boss Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), who died in the last film.

The standard of the action is well above what we normally get from Hollywood; the camera swoops around all the shooting and running, and the story is surprisingly strong, involving the grown children of the main characters.

Aside from delivering the mayhem and laughs fans expect, the film’s big draw is the novelty of seeing Will Smith in the type of big movie that was meant to be beyond him.

It’s Smith’s first film since The Incident and stands as a huge expression of faith from Sony, the first studio to invest big money – about $180 million (production plus marketing) – into his comeback.

All Smith needs now is for the film to be a hit. Fingers crossed.

While many people have been wailing over the poor box-office performance of Furiosa: A Mad Max Story, an equal number have been celebrating how George Miller’s $170 million post-apocalyptic epic has been beaten by a cartoon cat.

And it’s not all-that-surprising, The Garfield Movie is a fabulously funny family film in which our pizza-loving feline Garfield goes on an adventure with his estranged dad, who apparently abandoned him as a kitten.

Along with being full of laughs, action and surprisingly touching moments – why don’t films like this ever get nominated for Oscars? – there’s no sign that Garfield has been politically corrected.

As Garfield stuffs his face with pizza, lasagna any anything else there are no responsible messages about dieting, exercise, nutrition, the dangers of obesity, high blood pressure, clogged arteries or diabetes. What a relief.

It’s a totally authentic, guilt-free Garfield, which is one of the things that makes the movie such a pleasure.

It seems the makers – including Garfield creator Jim Davis as a producer – were secure in the knowledge that kids understand the difference between real life and an animated feline.

When it comes to massive data breaches it’s hard to imagine one more damaging than the one explored in the excellent three-part Netflix docu-series Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal.

In 2015 the notorious website that enjoyed huge success match-making people who wanted to cheat on their spouses was infiltrated. The hacker’s demand wasn’t for money but for the morally dubious site to be shut down.

When the company’s chiefs refused the details of millions of clients were made freely available for anyone to download.

By highlighting a handful of cases, the show illustrates how thousands of marriages, relationships and reputations were
destroyed. It also details how such a bizarre service originated and why it went on to enjoy such popularity across the globe.

With a total running time of about two hours, the three episodes make for compulsive viewing, especially when the bosses contend how infidelity can help a marriage.

Many other thorny issues are raised, such as the false guarantee of privacy extended by Ashley Madison – they just designed an official-looking badge – and how far back a sin needs to be before it is forgivable.

Remarkably, despite the scandal and the moral controversy, the site is still thriving. What that says about society is a great way to start an argument.

For more visit with updates on X at @jimschembri

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