Wait, Did Bad Boys For Life Make A Major Change To The Timeline Of Mike And Marcus' Friendship?

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence walking down street in Bad Boys for Life
(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

After a nearly 17 years gap between movies, the Bad Boys franchise was revitalized with this month's hit, Bad Boys For Life. The Will Smith-Martin Lawrence buddy cop action-comedy sequel brought Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett back together to "ride or die" once more, and it saw the reunited actors reflecting on their legacies and reminiscing over their past while also looking ahead at the future. Nevertheless, in this wistful spirit, Will Smith's Mike Lowrey makes a speech containing a key piece of information that may contradict what we knew about these characters from the first film.

Specifically, during a sequence early on in Bad Boys For Life, Will Smith's Mike Lowrey makes a toast where he says that he's being partners with Martin Lawrence's Marcus Burnett for 25 years, which is a slick reference to the original movie's 1995 release date. However, in the first Bad Boys film, Will Smith's character claims he and Lawrence's character have already been partners for six years before the original's turn of events, which puts the Bad Boys timeline in a state of flux — to say the least. Was this line a goof? Did the filmmakers forget to re-watch the first Bad Boys film before they made the sequel? Or does this sly little piece of information actually give us a clue into the series' broader story structure?

Let's investigate and explore some plausible (and not-so-plausible) possibilities, shall we?

Naturally, you should expect a few spoilers for the Bad Boys franchise to be found throughout this article. You've been warned.

Will Smith frowning in Bad Boys For Life

To Work In Mike Lowrey's Undercover Job Storyline

Perhaps the simplest explanation to be made is that Bad Boys For Life changed the timeline of the Bad Boys franchise a bit in order to incorporate the reveal made late into this 2020 sequel where Will Smith's Mike Lowrey claims that, before he became partners with Martin Lawrence's Marcus Burnett in the Miami police force, he was working an undercover job, which is where Mike first became acquainted with Kate del Castillo's villainous character, Isabel Aretas. It's a minor enough change that most audiences (other than me...) probably won't pay any mind to and that gives Bad Boys For Life the flexibility to wiggle with with the pre-established timeline and incorporate this uncovered truth into Mike Lowrey's shadowed, complicated backstory.

It's similar to how, in Monsters University, the characters met in college when Monsters Inc. established that these two monsters have known each other since the 4th grade. It's possible the screenwriters/directors changed the backstory in order to tell the story they wanted to tell in their sequel.

Joe Pantoliano's Captain Howard sitting at his desk Bad Boys For Life

Maybe The Filmmakers Forgot To Revisit The First Movie

Sometimes, the simplest answer is the right one. Not to assume that the filmmakers behind Bad Boys For Life didn't do their homework, but it's also entirely possible that this key timeline detail slipped their gaze while they were putting together this movie and nobody ever bothered to fact check or go back to the original Bad Boys to make sure this line was correct. Or, perhaps, the filmmakers did go back and check. But when they did, it was too late, and they didn't have the time nor resources to make the fix, so they hoped nobody would notice. This is a very easy mistake they could've made.

Martin Lawrence, Will Smith standing next to each other in Bad Boys For Life

They Forgot To Update The Line From An Older Script

Bad Boys 3 has been in development for a long time. There was interest in making a third Bad Boys movie as early as 2008, and there were concrete plans to write the screenplay back to 2009. There was a Bad Boys 3 script floating around 2014, in some form or another, before screenwriter/director Joe Carnahan joined the project in a serious way back in 2015 (and was replaced in the director's chair by Adil & Bilall). If there was a script written back around 2013, it's possible an early draft was accurate in saying that Marcus Burrnett and Mike Lowrey were partners for 25 years, but as Bad Boys 3 was constantly delayed, it's possible this line stayed in each consecutive draft but nobody bothered to update it before the film was released.

Will Smith, Martin Lawrence together in Bad Boys For Life

Bad Boys For Life Takes Place In 2014

Granted, while we're lead to believe that Bad Boys For Life takes place in our current year, there's nothing specifically in the movie that indicates that it's set in the present. It's entirely possible that Bad Boys For Life is actually a period piece, and the events seen in the film take place six years earlier in 2014. After all, we don't hear any characters mention either 2019 or 2020, and if the producers wanted to be cheeky, they could throw this excuse out rather easily. It's doubtful that they intended Bad Boys For Life to take place in 2014 instead of 2020, but at least it'd make more sense based on what was already established in the timeline. Therefore, if the producers and filmmakers want a quick-and-easy explanation, this one is the best bet.

Freezing scene From Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Mike And Marcus Were Frozen In Time, Like Austin Powers, For Six Years

This is where we dive into kooky territory. But to be fair, there is no evidence presented in Bad Boys For Life that contradicts the theory that Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey were somehow deep-frozen in time for six years before they woke up in some version of the modern day. Admittedly, is this idea any more-or-less ridiculous than anything seen in Bad Boys II? I don't think so. Based on all the ludicrous, over-the-top action that take place in the Bad Boys universe, maybe these two risk-loving cops needed to use state-of-the-art time-freezing technology in order to protect themselves from a dangerous threat? Maybe this is a prequel idea to be explored in the sequel? Just saying, if you want this script, you know how to get ahold of us ...

Will Smith, Martin Lawrence in a car in Bad Boys For Life

Mike Lowrey Forgot How Long He Was Partners With Marcus Burnett

As you get older, you forget things. Some days, I forget what I had for breakfast (assuming I had breakfast). With these two cops in their fifties, it's also possible that Mike Lowrey did the math wrong in his head. He thought he had been partners with Marcus Burnett for 25 years, when in actuality, it had been 31 years. Sometimes, this information slips from your memory and you forget how much time passed. In that vein, maybe Mike Lowrey was lying to make himself and his long-time partner seem slightly younger? Maybe it was easier for Mike to lie and say 25 years instead of over three decades?

Some of these theories are more plausible than others, admittedly, but this small inconsistency opens the door for a ton of fun, random possibilities. Let us know your different theories for why Mike Lowrey might've said the wrong number of years in Bad Boys For Life in the comment section below.

Will Ashton

Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.