Detective Marcus Burnett is threatening to get sick in his partner Mike Lowry’s Porsche. But Lowry, played by Will Smith, isn’t having it.
“I’m about to throw up!” says a bulging cheek Burnett, the Miami cop played by Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys For Life.
“Oh, you bet the hell not!” says Lowry. “That is hand-stitched leather — you better drink it.”
Ew! Ick! No! That’s not exactly my idea of appetizing dinner conversation. So I guess I’m grateful the service here is so slow, at least this early in the film. But come to think of it now … where the heck is our food?
We’ve come for a meal and a movie at the new AMC Dine-In theater in the Fashion District remake of the Gallery. And boy, am I enjoying the spacious comfort of our cushy recliner seats with heated bottoms, cup holders, and swinging trays. The only thing missing from our night of cinema gastronomique is the feast we’d just ordered with the promise of timely delivery to our seats.
“It should be about 20 minutes,” said the perky manager, who took our order in the lobby with reassurance that we’d chosen all his own menu favorites. “You’re gonna love the bacon Brussels sprouts!”
One hour later, with no food in sight as Burnett and Lowry lead a suspenseful blood-splattered trail across Miami in search of a cartel hit man, I am getting hangry. I’ve also begun to wonder if our order-taker had quoted a line from Bad Boys when he bid us farewell from the register: “¡Hasta el fuego!”
This mysterious catchphrase, a cryptic wait-for-it message between Lowry and the murderous cartel queen, Isabel “La Bruja” Aretas, means “until the fire” in Spanish. But the only fire you’re likely to taste at this Dine-In before half the movie is over is a bucket of cheddar popcorn laced with Flamin’ HotⓇ CheetosⓇ.
“Psst! Psst!” My family’s trying to get my attention, pointing across the room.
At this moment, I’d like to apologize to all my fellow moviegoers in Row D. That lady waving a flashlight around the theater at the opposite end of our aisle? Yup, that’s our order! Please excuse us while she trudges back and forth in front of your seats several times with trays of boxes piled high with 7,310 calories worth of lukewarm movie food indulgence. Not that I’m counting.
I would also like to apologize to my neighbors for the pungent aroma of Buffalo wing sauce that suddenly wafts over the room when I open the containers during the climax of a particularly gory shoot-out. Ranch dressing, anyone?
But as “ride together, die together” Burnett might also say: We recline together! We dine together! Bad boys, bad boys. Whatcha gonna do?
The only problem is that when the servers finally do come for you, they might forget to bring the knives, forks, and napkins. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to eat a bowl of Parmesan-dusted Brussels sprouts with bacon in the dark with your fingers in a fully reclined pose. But it’s not pretty when the lights come up.
I, at least, have the good sense to lean forward while chomping into the Royal Bacon Brie burger. But sadly it isn’t “juicier than an on-screen romance” like the poster outside promised; more like “20 minutes too long under the heat lamp.”
My compliments to the pretzel bite chef, though. These soft and chewy nubs are spot-on warm and salty, perfect for their honey mustard dip. Points off for the popcorn, however, which is slightly scorched. And the “Asian” steak and shrimp bowl, one of the culinary splurges at $17.99, has such chewy chunks of beef and treacly teriyaki sauce, it would be run out of both Chinatown a half block north of this theater and the Panda Express a half block south.
To my pleasant surprise, the best thing on our tables is my grilled chicken Cobb salad. Despite all its smoky bacon-blue cheese dressing goodness, it’s also among the healthiest entrée choices — an albeit low bar on this nutritionist’s horror show of a menu.
I know, I know. Nobody expects a food critic to like dining in their seat at a movie theater. But this is part of a growing trend that Nation’s Restaurant News senior food and beverage editor, Bret Thorn, calls “experiential dining — when you go out and it’s not just about the food.”
The competition Movie Tavern has three locations in the northern and western suburbs, while AMC has another Dine-In theater in West Chester. This was my first opportunity to experience it in the city.
The concept isn’t so convincing in restaurant-rich Philadelphia, where dinner is already its own form of entertainment. I also can’t imagine a movie experience that’s actually improved by adding the distracting drama of navigating a cheesy nacho platter.
On my next visit, I may heed the advice of a colleague and head for the bar, which at this location is called MacGuffin’s and is surprisingly well-stocked with good beers (Duvel, Lagunitas IPA, Victory Headwaters pale ale), drinkable wines, and high-end booze, from Hendricks gin to Macallan 12 Scotch.
My colleague said a giant margarita made watching Spies in Disguise with her young son a much more tolerable 100 minutes than it could have been fully sober. In theory, this could work to the benefit of some grown-up movies, too, with corny themed drinks like the Dark Temptations “shaken with passion” for Fifty Shades Darker, or the blue banana rum punch called “What the Flock” for Birds of Prey.
For my family, the best thing to sip at a fast-paced action comedy like the Bad Boys franchise was the nonalcoholic chocolate shake, an 1,850-calorie dessert bomb topped with whipped cream that strategically arrives just moments before the pyrotechnics of the grand finale. As Lowry and La Bruja’s story ends in a fiery denouement, a loud and thirsty slurp of shake rises up from our aisle.
“Sorry,” I apologize to my neighbor.
“It’s cool,” he says, pointing to the wreckage of my Brussels sprouts. “I’m gonna get some next time.”