The Men in Black are back, and they’re up to their old tricks. Battling aliens, zapping people’s memories, and having witty exchanges between one another. The Earth is imperiled, and this time in order to save it, Agent J (Will Smith) has to travel back in time to work with the young Agent K (Josh Brolin).
For people who are fans of the first two, this movie should deliver what you’re expecting – it’s pretty much a healthy dose of “More of the Same”.
It sets the bar for itself low, jumps over it easily, and then happily accepts the “Hey, ok,” that most audiences are bound to give it.
The “Men in Black” films have always been lighter entertainment – they never took themselves too seriously. Part action, part comedy, heavy on the special effects, there’s always been a dash of “Looney Tunes” to them. When that factor is working, it adds a sense of laid back cool to the proceedings – a nonchalance that becomes part of the charm. When it’s not working, it comes across as lazy, as if the film isn’t even trying.
I vacillated between the two as I watched “Men in Black III”. I’m well aware (the movie doesn’t let you forget) that this is lighthearted popcorn fare that’s not supposed to be taken too seriously. But there were more than a few moments when I felt as if the movie wasn’t even trying.
Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), an alien that K imprisoned decades, earlier busts out of prison and finds a way to travel back through time in an attempt to kill K. The stakes are even higher considering that K also prevented an alien takeover of Earth during incident where he arrested Boris. Boris’ initial trip back is successful – K vanishes and the invasion has begun, except that Agent J hasn’t forgotten his partner. Now it’s up to him to travel back in time prior to Boris’ trip, and help Agent K to evade assassination and to successfully prevent the alien invasion.
The high point of the movie is the charisma of the cast. Josh Brolin does a PERFECT Tommy Lee Jones (in fact, I’m going on record now as saying I’d be in favor of MIB:IV if it meant getting those two onscreen together playing the same character at the same time), and of course, Will Smith has charm to spare. They’re the ones who play off of each other, and turn less than stellar comedic material into decently entertaining fare. The chemistry between either duo is amusing, and their reactions and one liners in the face of the absurdist situations they’re put into are really the best element of the movie.
In ’97, the original “Men in Black” had a few things going for it that this one can’t have. It was original, so the introduction of the story itself held a charm, and it was still in the first wave of CGI heavy movies. So audiences were impressed with the aliens, and the effects in a way that now, 15 years later, we can’t be. Without those two elements, the movie is left to its own devices, and aside from the charm of the cast, it doesn’t have much. The plot isn’t complicated enough to merit a second thought, and the action sequences are harmless and mildly humorous.
One could praise this movie for achieving what it sets out to do, but just as easily, you could condemn it for setting its sights so low.
For a comedy, it’s not all that funny. For an action movie, it’s not all that exciting. As a blend of both, it’s a decent enough way to pass a couple of hours at the movies or on the couch, but it’s not something I would recommend anyone reschedule their Memorial Day weekend plans for.