Sony has had a rough year in 2015, with critical bombs like Aloha and pricey misfires such as Pixels among its highest-performing 2015 films. Thus far, the studio's biggest commercial hit of the year is Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 with just $71 million domestically, making Sony one of the few major studios without a runaway hit in 2015 (thus far).
Cue Tom Rothman, the new chairman of Sony's motion picture group, who recently laid out 16 dates for upcoming releases, including much-anticipated adaptations for Stephen King's The Dark Tower and video game series Uncharted. Among the updated schedule were both Bad Boys 3 and Bad Boys 4, presumably with both Martin Lawrence and Will Smith onboard to reprise their roles from Michael Bay's first two Bad Boys movies.
However, according to THR, that may not actually be the case. In a piece discussing Sony's game plan going forward, the trade magazine mentions that insiders claim that it is unclear if Smith will star as Detective Mike Lowrey in the new films... or simply serve as a producer on the new Bad Boys films (though, of course, he may yet both headline and produce the sequels). Aside from the Bad Boys and Men in Black sequels, Smith has largely avoided returning to franchises he helped start, with the upcoming Independence Day: Resurgence being the most well-documented example.
Considering how much the Bad Boys films rely on the interplay between Lawrence and Smith, the franchise risks a marked decrease in audience interest if Sony does choose to continue with two leads in place. While an Independence Day sequel can shift its focus to other members of its ensemble cast, Bad Boys and its sequel simply would not be the films that they are without the two actors that started it.
When the stars of a film series essentially become the only real distinction separating those movies from their counterparts, it's not always so easy for that franchise to continue on with business as usual. It's the same reason why there hasn't been a Lethal Weapon reboot (yet), and the same holds true for Bad Boys. Replacing Smith and/or Lawrence would rob the films' of their primary draw and make the series indistinguishable from other buddy-cop action thrill rides.
That being said, Martin Lawrence is apparently still game to sign on for more Bad Boys films. Expect Sony to do everything it can to bring Smith back into the fold, too; then (hopefully) the studio will also rein back in Joe Pantoliano as the harried Captain Howard.
Do you think Bad Boys 3 and 4 would work without Smith? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Bad Boys 3 is set to open in theaters on February 17th, 2017, followed by Bad Boys 4 on July 3rd, 2019.