Third Time’s…Better than the Second: “Men In Black 3”

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Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

It has been an interesting journey for “Men in Black.” The first one burst onto the Hollywood scene with a sharp script, a fantastic buddy cop team with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones and some dazzling make-up effects. Unfortunately, “Men in Black 2” came and sucked the fun out of the franchise, turning it into a limp commercial product. So many like me were hesitant when “Men in Black 3” was announced. So how does this one rank amongst the three? Not as good as the first, but better than the second.

Ten years after the second film, a dangerous super criminal named Boris the Animal, played with scenery-chewing bravado by an unrecognizable Jemaine Clement, has traveled back in time and killed Agent K to allow an invasion of Earth. Agent J follows Boris back to 1969 where he, along with a young Agent K, must stop Boris and prevent the invasion from happening. After an incredibly clunky opening act, the plot finds some footing once J goes to the 60’s. Nothing particularly unexpected happens with the plot, but it will still manage to entertain to the end.

What helps this film is that it manages to capture some of the first film’s charm. The villain is actually menacing, the alien effects are stunning as always and there are some good action scenes this time around. There is even a touching moment near the end that adds some predictable but welcomed pathos to the story. What has not recovered as well is the comedy. Most of the set-up gags fail due to flat dialogue, archaic staging and a lack of payoffs. Director Barry Sonnenfeld just cannot tell a joke like he used to, which is a shame because the cast seems to be trying. The one constant source of comedy here is Michael Stuhlbarg as a quirky alien named Griffin, whose uncanny ability to see all possible angles of time proves useful and humorous.

A common praise amongst critics is Josh Brolin’s performance as the young Agent K and I am right there with them. His vocal cadence, dead-pan delivery and appearance are spot-on and he is a worthy replacement to Tommy Lee Jones. Will Smith is as charming as usual, but unfortunately he is involved in most of the lamest gags. Some of the supporting actors have nice moments like Bill Hader as Andy Warhol, but Emma Thompson is completely wasted. They also wasted some great cameos from people like Will Arnet, who is only in the film to be Will Arnet for a minute before disappearing.

“Men in Black 3” never surpassed my expectations, but thankfully my only real expectation was that it would be better than the second film. It reminds me what I loved about the first movie while adding some of its own touches. I kind of hope there is not a “Men in Black 4” though, because I think this is a good enough send-off for the franchise.

Editor’s note: this film is rated PG-13. Some content of the movie may not be suitable for all audiences. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content. A content guide can provide individuals with additional content. 

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