Josh Brolin, Will Smith and Barry Sonnenfeld attending the "Men In Black 3" premiere held at le Grand Rex in Paris. (Pacific Coast News)more pics » The Bottom Line
Should you see it?
My favorite of the Men in Black movies, it features the best villain and a young and old Tommy Lee Jones.
I yearn for the good old days. You know... the 1980s, when sequels were a burgeoning art form and made to further storylines and deepen beloved characters like Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones. Okay, so I'm reaching a bit. Sequels have always been made to stack cash, for every Godfather Part II
, there's a dozen Batman & Robins
. This is why the thought of a film like Men in Black III
is so coma-inducing. Sure, the first edition of the franchise was creative and fun, but did we really need a two, nevermind a three? The best sequels enhance the originals which is why Empire Strikes Back
and Terminator 2
rock so hard. Caddyshack 2
? Jaws 2
? Hell, Weekend at Bernie's 2
? These sequels should've died a death in pre-production. Made singularly to profit off the success of the originals, these types of sequels give the genre a toxic name. However, once in a while, a toxic sequel comes along that surprises us. It never should have been made, it's not going to enhance the original, but there it is, and it's actually not bad. Surprise! Men in Black III
is one of these movies.
Boosted by two great performances from Josh Brolin
and Jemaine Clement
scoots along at a nifty 103 minutes to a (surprise again) touching conclusion that comes out of nowhere. Will Smith
, who has not been seen in theaters in three years (it's true, since 2008's Seven Pounds
), provides a typically-safe/likable performance as Agent J in a time-travel storyline that takes a page from Back to the Future
and shows us the same characters at a different period in their lives. A plot-device that, although unoriginal, is a beautiful thing when done expertly. Humans are nostalgia junkies and we appreciate familiarity, especially in our movies.
To save Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones
) from being murdered in the present, Agent J must travel back in time to 1969 to kill the killer, Boris the Animal (Clement), whose arm K had blown off back then before he had him thrown in lockdown on the moon for 40 years. Boris has spent those 40 years stewing for K like some kind of extraterrestrial Max Cady. Needless to say, he misses his arm. It takes a while to get there, but once J gets to '69, things start to take off.
Young Agent K (Brolin) looks and sounds just like the one J knows from the present so he has no problem warming up to him. The feeling is not so mutual at first, but the two partners find their rhythm and set about saving the world from Boris. The film contains the expected amount of hiding-in-plain-sight aliens that the MiB
films are known for and they are, as usual, done creatively, although, as usual, they offer no sense of danger. There is an ancillary plotline that involves a clairvoyant named Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg
) who hangs out with Andy Warhol (Bill Hader
), a device that can protect the Earth, and the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, but the real fun is in watching Brolin do his Tommy Lee Jones impersonation and Clement snarl his way through his lines as Boris.
Brolin, who has already given us a remarkable George W. Bush performance in Oliver Stone
proves to not only master the signature unblinking, narrow-eyed stare of Jones, but he also masters his cadence and accent. His is one of those performances that even the most obtuse movie-goer can appreciate. Can anyone act? Most assuredly, no... and here is Brolin to prove it.
Likewise, Clement, as the dastardly foe, Boris, is rendered nearly unrecognizable by the character's makeup and eyeglasses, but his New Zealand accent is still there and the Flight of the Conchords
funny man's deep resonating voice positively makes Boris a memorable villain. His introductory scene, which begins the film, is fantastic. Chained down in solitude, Boris escapes his lunar prison with the help of a beautiful comrade (Nicole Scherzinger
) and a spiky insect-like alien that lives in his hand. Boris is wonderfully conceived and Clement carries out the vision with menace and hilarious lunacy.
Director Barry Sonnenfeld
should also be given much of the credit for the film's success. If nothing else, MiB
movies always contain great-looking aliens, something taken for granted these days (check out the uninspired aliens used in Battleship
for example). Sonnenfeld has proven a deft hand at making the Men in Black
films fun and fun-looking and that is a feat unto itself. Tropic Thunder
scribe, Etan Cohen
's script is far from Oscar-worthy, but his characters are well sketched and Sonnenfeld brings them to life admirably.
The film concludes with a touching scene that (surprise!) furthers the original storyline. The relationship between Agents K and J is given a new dimension that will enhance a rewatching of the first film. Yes, this ending is a bit forced and undeveloped, but the bottom line is it works within the MiB
framework. Destined to be just another lame sequel like the rest of them, Men in Black III
defies expectations and the laws of Hollywood sequel-making to stand proud as a fun exception to the rule.
See more photos of the cast of Men in Black III