Throughout the surprisingly long life of Fast & Furious, we’ve come to think of the franchise as something of a joke. Macho men and beautiful women revving up engines and performing absurd stunts, with barely a thread of plot to hold the whole thing together. And yet, not only is Fast & Furious still around, but the sixth installment in the series is geared up to take the weekend box office charts by a landslide. The film grossed over $38 million domestically on Friday and is projected to cash in at $120 million by the end of the holiday weekend (according to USA Today) and it miraculously earned the approval of 75% of critics and 95% of fans on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Pardon us while we stop and wonder: how on earth did this happen?

Well, there’s obviously the very enticing presence of both Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel – both of whom look like your stereotypical tough guys, but turn out to be surprisingly relatable and have really good comedic pacing. Then there are of course the members of the supporting cast – Paul Walker, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson and Jordana Brewster – who’s clever and well-timed quips make this highly watchable. Then there are, of course, the machines, the explosions, your typical action flick fodder, which this franchise takes very seriously. But all that just makes for an entertaining, easily forgettable movie, perhaps one sequel. What Fast did and what’s helped the franchise not only live on, but become bigger and better, with the sixth installment being the best yet, where normally a franchise would be on its last leg, was to stop taking itself seriously. Somewhere around Fast Five the producers realized the ridiculousness of the whole premise and, instead of trying to disguise it, decided to just go for the full monty (we presume that’s how it was mentioned in meetings.)

Script lagging? Let’s add a heist plot. Let’s stop worrying about physics and reality and just put in the craziest explosions possible. Let’s resurrect a couple of characters, use amnesia as a plot device. And, as the actors were kept in tight T-shirts and little to no clothing throughout, it also made this cornucopia of infinitely watchable moments. No, high cinema this isn’t. It’s just grand, ridiculous and totally worth the ticket.

Vin Diesel, Fast & Furious 6 PremiereDwayne Johnson, WWE Superstars for Sandy Relief
Vin Diesel (left) and Dwayne Johnson team up to bring us perfect popcorn viewing.