Fools give a mouse a cookie. Maniacs give Vin Diesel a global megafranchise.

The Fast and the Furious series went from the bad kind of goofy to exquisite action absurdism before now officially returning to the bad kind of goofy again. It’s like a roller coaster with an engine that sips nitrous oxide, flying over peaks of Black supermen and valleys of Vin Diesel smirking in a polo at a barbeque.

Nobody actually remembers what happened in any of the movies, after the one with the drifting in Tokyo. They don’t even bother to give the films real titles anymore, just a weird jumble of numbers and letters and taglines. It’s all part of the goopy narrative gruel, consumed as the most minimal of excuses for an ever-expanding cast to do increasingly preposterous, very loosely car-related stuff. Because the series is oddly obsessed with never actually killing anyone, the tenth film is just going to be three-full hours of reintroducing characters; it will be nothing but handshakes that turn into hugs and “You sonuvabitch” grins.

As F9 opens, Dom (Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) have “gotten out of the game.” Point of order: What is that game at this point? Using automobiles to flip Isaac Newton a posthumous middle finger? Doing spy stuff for shady government agencies? Understand that, decades into this series of films, it is still highly unclear why these people keep getting asked by anyone to do literally anything. Having street racing thieves do intercontinental espionage makes as much sense as having Scoob and the gang perform open-heart surgery.

The opening flashback reveals Dom has a brother, Jacob (John Cena). Considering that “family” is one of the 7-8 words Diesel says in the entire series, you’d think this would have come up earlier. Maybe his sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), might have mentioned something about it within the previous 20 or so hours of running time? Anyway, Jake is gonna do a no-no, and Dom has to stop him. This requires Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) to briefly go into space in a Pontiac Fiero with a rocket strapped to it while Charlize Theron is briefly locked in Magneto’s prison from the X-Men movies. Nobody knows why. Please don’t ask.

The surreal spectacles of Fs 5 through 7 have given way to overindulgent buffoonery. Pigging out and downing a whole Boston cream pie in an evening is a good time. Do it every night, and you’re gonna die. Well, normal humans would. Those that are either sufficiently fast or furious apparently achieve some form of stupid invulnerability.

Speaking of stupid, the gimmick introduced for the 12-hour-or-so finale set piece involves giant magnets in cars. Nobody show this to the easily confused Insane Clown Posse, as what is depicted is very much not how magnetism has functioned or ever will function. The problem here is not that F9 needs to adhere to scientific standards. The issue is that the series is now at war with itself.

Things have spiraled so far out of the bounds of reality that attempts to find logical loopholes by which to allow for increasingly ludicrous (not Ludacris) sequences are irritating and infantile. Just make them superheroes! Nobody cares! Or, better yet, go St. Elsewhere and show the whole thing has been Lil’ Dom playing with Matchbox cars the whole time. The only modestly intriguing aspect in the script here is Roman’s flirtation with fourth-wall-punching meta-awareness, which is also an acceptable way out of this mess.

Like the constitution, The Fast and the Furious was never supposed to live this long. Things that were cheeky and/or heartfelt have now become borderline insane, like how the series has continued to pretend Brian (Paul Walker) is still alive. That worked once, maybe twice, but they’ve kept it up for way, way too long. Now it feels like the only choices for the two-film conclusion is to either resurrect Walker via CGI necromancy or leave a very central character (who has then unnecessarily been kept alive) entirely out of the finale.

Whatever!

Other than corrupt magnetism and one great fight scene during which Dom is apparently granted those aforementioned superpowers and literally pulls an entire building down around him, all that’s memorable about F9 is that they traded The Rock for John Cena. That’s like going from a Honda Accord to a Ford Fiesta, right? No?

I don’t really “get” cars. That could be part of the problem here…

Grade = C-

Other Critical Voices to Consider

Wenlei Ma of news.com.au says “What F9 should apologise for is its stupendously dumb writing and propensity to overexplain every little thing (did you know parents and their children share DNA?!), and bloated emotional beats that stretch for so long you’re left screaming on the inside, ‘DO MORE CAR STUFF!’”

Brandon Avery of Just My Opinion Reviews says “I’ll finish with this lack of a better phrase to describe this film, because if the series won’t put forth an effort to sound reasonable, why should I? In short, this film was STUPID!”

Lupe R Haas at Cinemovie says “There’s no doubt you’ll have a good laugh watching some of the ridiculous moments, and sharing them in a dark room with a bunch of strangers, just make sure to check your critical thinking skills at the door.”


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