MEN IN BLACK 3 – The Review

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Can it really be ten years since the Men in Black stormed the cineplex? Yup, it’s a darn shame they couldn’t use their neuralizers ( or as J first called them, “flashy things ” ) to erase our memories of that dismal 2002 sequel MEN IN BLACK 2. Hopefully the film makers have used the time to determine what went wrong and how to make a third film that can recapture the fun of the first. Speaking of time, we’ve not seen Will Smith in a film since 2008’s SEVEN POUNDS. Can he re-establish the Summer as ” Big Willie Time”? To find out let’s get that dark suit out of the closet, grab a pair of shades ( and 3D glasses), and take one strange trip in MEN IN BLACK 3.

As this installment begins, we’re witness to the break out of an alien criminal named Boris ” The Animal ‘ ( Jemaine Clement )  from a max, I mean really max, security facility. Cut to old partners Agents J ( Smith ) and K ( Tommy Lee Jones ) investigating a crashed spacecraft on the streets of New York City. Later on, the always stoic K delivers a eulogy for their departed boss Z at MIB HQ as we’re introduced to their new supervisor Agent O ( Emma Thompson ). That evening our heroes raid an Asian restaurant where K makes a discovery that sends him into a melancholy funk. The tight-lipped vet refuses to share this link to the past with his partner, so J hits the research files back at the base. Later that night J and K share an odd phone conversation. The next morning J heads to his partner’s apartment and is shocked to discover a family living there with no knowledge of K. And what’s with J’s craving for chocolate milk? Returning to HQ, his fellow agents are confused by his inquiries about K, because, as O informs him, K was killed on a mission over forty years ago! Oh, and Earth’s being invaded by spaceships from a distant world. Aha! Boris made the leap back in time and eliminated K via a secret device! J’s got no choice but to use said device and travel to 1969 in order to save K ( and the world ). Back in that groovy year J and a much younger K ( Josh Brolin ) embark on mission that will take them to Coney Island, Shea Stadium. Andy Warhol’s Factory, and , eventually,  the launch of Apollo 11 at  Florida’s Cape Canaveral in order to stop Boris’s fiendish plot.

First off, this is a huge improvement over the second film, but that may be damning with faint praise. Director Barry Sonnenfeld keeps things moving quickly in the first act and makes great use of 3D ( the prison break is a fantastic sequence ). Besides Mr. S several other members of the old team are back. Danny Elfman provides some great new riffs to his original pounding score. It’s wonderful seeing the skilled artistry of make-up effects master Rick Baker once again. In the modern bookend scenes most of the creatures are rendered using some pretty great CGI ( including that gang of wise-cracking, antennae-wiggling bugs ). Once we’re in the sixties, the aliens are similar to the pop-culture BEMs ( Bug  Eyed Monsters ) seen in TV shows like ” The Outer Limits” and ” Lost in Space “. Perhaps another Oscar nom for Mr. B ? Kudos also to the art directors for giving the past scenes a candy-colored glow. There are lots of great looking period fashions and classic vehicles. Of course the agents back then had their own cool futuristic gizmos, but here they too have a clunky, retro vibe. As for the actors, Smith carries the film on his broad shoulders and considerable screen charms. He convincingly stumbles and stammers as he is the ” fish out of water ” in this weird time. Carrying him through is his affection for his co-worker. Speaking of which Jones is his old, reliable cranky self as the veteran agent. The curmudgeon does show his feelings a bit as he begins to re-live his past regrets. The best surprise in the film is the inspired casting and performance of Brolin as the 1969 model  K. He’s a smoother, squinting version of Jones ( he’s got that Southern drawl down pat! ), who’s not quite the old ” stone face “. He even smiles at J a couple of times. Thompson’s a great addition as the button-down all business O, who’s very fluent in Venusian! The lovely Alice Eve plays her 60’s self in a couple of too brief scenes. Speaking of brief, Bill Hader of TV’s ” Saturday Night Live ” scores big laughs as an agent deep, deep under cover. Clement is both scary and funny as both versions of Boris ( augmented with some seriously gross CGI effects ). The only problem with the film is a somewhat soft second act involving an alien named Griffin played by Michael Stuhlbarg from A SERIOUS MAN. He can see several alternate futures at once, but can’t really interfere or prevent events. He reminded me of a shorter, schlubby version of “The Watcher” character from Marvel Comics. His ramblings become muddled and confusing after a few screen moments ( wonder if the role was written with Sonnenfeld’s RV star Robin Williams in mind ). But , despite this detour, the new adventure is a worthy follow-up to the 1997 original and with sprightly work by Brolin, MEN IN BLACK 3 is a fun, pleasant ride through the galaxy and the decades. Now allow me to direct your attention to this small silver device….

Overall rating: 3.5 Out of 5 Stars

Jim Batts was a contestant on the movie edition of TV's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" in 2009 and has been a member of the St. Louis Film Critics organization since 2013.


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  3. Doug

    May 25, 2012 at 7:24 am

    I enjoyed the movie I have always like the MIB series and it was great to see this back on the big screen. Definitely any MIB fan will not be disappointed in this flick.

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