Can ‘Bad Boys for Life’ Succeed for Sony Where ‘MIB: International’ Failed?

Universal also sends “Dolittle” to box office alongside “1917” in its second weekend of wide release

Bad Boys for Life Will Smith Martin Lawrence
Sony Pictures

Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life” and Universal’s “Dolittle” will enter theaters for MLK weekend alongside last weekend’s well-received “1917” and “Just Mercy.”

“Bad Boys for Life,” the long-awaited third installment of the “Bad Boys” series, is expected to take No. 1 with an opening weekend of at least $35 million and possibly as high as the upper $40 million range. While it’s unlikely that the film will outperform “Bad Boys II” — which grossed $138 million domestically and $273 million worldwide in 2003 — it was made on a somewhat cheaper budget. “Bad Boys II” had a budget of $130 million, while “Bad Boys for Life” has a reported budget of $90 million.

The hope for Sony is that the cult fanbase of “Bad Boys” will help push the film to a better box office result than its last attempt to revive a dormant franchise: last summer’s “Men in Black: International.” That $110 million film failed to launch with just a $30 million opening, and final gross of $80 million domestically and $253 million globally. Given the age of lead stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence — as well as the high demand of the former actor — it’s unlikely that a successful result will lead to any more “Bad Boys” films. But it could still serve as a strong start to the year for a Sony team that grossed $1.37 billion in North America in 2019.

“Bad Boys for Life” sees Smith and Lawrence return as Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, the once inseparable cop duo that has drifted apart and are considering retirement. But they are forced to come together once again after they are targeted for vengeance by the brother of a mob boss they defeated years ago (Jacob Scipio).  Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah directed the film from a script by Chris Bremner, Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan.

Universal’s “Dolittle” marks the first film appearance of Robert Downey Jr. since his Marvel career came to an end with “Avengers: Endgame.” With a PG rating, the adventure comedy is aiming for a family audience and is expected to earn $20-22 million this weekend.

That means this weekend will be a very mixed one for Universal. With a $175 million budget, “Dolittle” is on course to be as big if not a bigger box office bust for the studio than “Cats” unless it gets both strong support from overseas markets and good word of mouth from families who won’t have a major competing option until the release of “Sonic the Hedgehog” next month.

However, Universal should get another strong weekend for “1917” after the major awards contender earned a $37 million opening and 10 Oscar nominations this past weekend. Vegas oddsmakers have given the film a strong chance to net Universal its second Best Picture win in as many years, which will increase the can’t-miss factor for interested moviegoers who have yet to see it. Both “1917” and Sony’s “Little Women” are expected to cross $100 million domestic in the coming weeks, and if and when they do, the 2020 Best Picture nominee list will have four films that crossed that mark for the first time since the nomination list expanded five a decade ago.

“Dolittle” stars Downey as the famed veterinarian who has the ability to talk to animals. When Queen Victoria falls gravely ill, Dolittle is reluctantly dragged out of his reclusive life to help find a cure. Harry Collett, Antonio Banderas and Michael Sheen also star alongside a voice cast that includes Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez and Marion Cotillard. Stephen Gaghan directed the film from a script he co-wrote with Dan Gregor and Doug Mand.