Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson, Jermaine Clement, David Rasche.
After that uneven second film, did we really need another chapter in the ET-busting, ALF-corralling adventures of Agents J (Smith) and K (Jones), those lovable MIBs? Is the current movie landscape no country for old Men in Black? Well, need it or not, want it or not, it’s here – and the somewhat good news is that it’s marginally better than the last one, almost on par with the first.
The main draw of this one is the smart casting of Josh Brolin as the younger K; he does such an amazing job of channeling Tommy Lee Jones that you can bet he’ll be the go-to guy if they ever decide to make US Marshals: The Academy Years. Kidding aside, Brolin manages to grab the viewer’s attention in just about every scene he’s in thanks to some smart scripting and his own taciturn, squinty-eyed charm … uh, I guess you could call it that. No mean feat, this hogging of the spotlight, when you consider that he’s snatching it from a megastar like Smith.
Brolin’s contribution to this romp, plus the easy way in which Messrs Smith and Jones slip right back into roles they haven’t played in 10 years, make this a fun jaunt. There’s even a bittersweet twist thrown in that makes the whole MIB “saga”, such as it is, a whole lot … warmer. The intervening years have been more or less kind to our heroes, but K seems to be dogged by regrets of some kind. Before J can pry any secrets from him, though, K just … vanishes.
It isn’t long before J learns that an old enemy, Boris the Animal (Clement), has travelled back in time and killed K more than 40 years in the past. Unless J can follow him and stop him, the whole planet is doomed.That’s really not much of a plot to hang an entire movie on, and it shows. Some scenes early on are dragged out to the point of being tiresome (like the memorial of a high-ranking MIB agent) while in others, the gags just fall flat.
I rather liked the villain, played by Clement from The Flight of the Conchords as a sort of extraterrestrial Randy Savage prone to arguing with everyone, including himself. (You could play a drinking game on how many times he says “Let’s agree to disagree”.) Other neat bits include the time-travel sequences and a rather smart use of the device during the film’s climax. But I take issue with the lightweight story, the criminal underutilization of Emma Thompson, and the film’s strange reluctance to give us more of the fish-out-of-water hilarity that (now we mostly just have to imagine) would ensue with a smart-ass like J transported back to 1969.
The MIB franchise has never been really great, and this new installment doesn’t seem likely to guarantee further longevity for the series. It’s fun while it’s around … and then it isn’t. There.