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Overall Rating
2.64

Awesome: 4.55%
Worth A Look: 9.09%
Just Average59.09%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 27.27%

3 reviews, 4 user ratings


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Men in Black 3
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Pursuit Of Crappiness"
1 stars

Released in the summer of 1997, where it went from being one of the season's biggest question marks against the eagerly awaited likes of "The Lost World," "Batman & Robin" and "Speed 2: Cruise Control" (and yes, it was a hell of a time) to becoming the year's second-biggest film (behind the behemoth that was "Titanic"), the original "Men in Black" proved to be not only a favorite with critics and audiences alike but also turned out to be a real rarity on a couple of fronts. Since few viewers were presumably aware of the out-of-print comic book that it was loosely based upon, they were able to go into it relatively fresh and without having all of its surprises blown for them ahead of time. More importantly, it was of the few films to ever successfully bring together two of the most traditionally incompatible ingredients of blockbuster filmmaking--comedy and elaborate special effects--into a cohesive whole. Like "Ghostbusters," perhaps the closest thing that it could be compared to, it was a showcase for a lot of elaborate visual pyrotechnics that clearly required tons of advance planning but it also contained enough quirky wit and amusing byplay between its stars to almost convince that the filmmakers were making things up as they went along, in the best possible sense. Thanks to the combination of the jokes, special effects and the unexpectedly inspired byplay between co-stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, the film man not have been an all-time classic but it was far more fun than it had any right to be.

If one requires proof as to just how much of an accomplishment "Men in Black" really was, all one has to do is look at the utterly worthless 2002 sequel "Men in Black II." As bold, amusing and creative as its title, the whole thing came across like the Bizarro World version of the original. The jokes were all tepid rehashes, the special effects were loud and lumbering without being fun, the byplay between the two stars had curdled into something unpleasant and the whole thing had the smug and leaden air of a project that existed only to make a ton of money for its key participants and nothing more. Aside from an excuse to gaze at the beauty of Rosario Dawson, this was a film that simply had no reason to exist and this is born out by the fact that even though it did make a ton of money, the vast majority of its audience has probably not spared it a single thought since August of 2002 and if they had, it was to muse on the fact that it was so bad that a possible "Men in Black III" would almost have to be an improvement because it would take a monumental effort to come up with a permutation that was worse. As it turns out, that is exactly what has happened with the long-delayed, wildly expensive and reportedly troubled production that is "Men in Black III," a film that is lazy and insulting even by the reduced standards of naked cash-grab sequels. This is an act of impersonal and borderline arrogant greed that is so completely devoid of any desire other than to suck up money at the box-office that it makes "The Cannonball Run II" look like "Tree of Life" by comparison.

As the story opens, the relationship between MIB agents J (Smith) and K (Jones) hasn't changed a whit since we last saw them--J is a motormouth who is brash and bold and always quipping while K continues to apparently dedicate his life to personally redefining the word "taciturn" on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the evil alien warrior Boris (Jermaine Clement), the last of his race, has escaped from his cell in the maximum-security prison on the moon, where he was put by K 40-odd years earlier, with an exceptionally diabolical plan; he will travel back in time to 1969, kill K before he can be arrested and then conquer Earth with his fellow aliens in our time. One day, J arrives at work and discovers that Boris has indeed succeeded at this and that New York is now under attack from a bunch of giant jellyfish-like creatures that will inspire some degree of laughter from anyone who recalls the insane finale of the Will Smith vehicle "Seven Pounds." In the hopes of setting everything right, J goes back in time as well to the summer of 1969 so that he can track down the younger K (Josh Brolin) and stop Boris in a series of sequences that take J and K from Andy Warhol's Factory (an endless scene that offers no laughs per say but does invite some intriguing speculation as to the true nature of Valerie Solanas) and Shea Stadium to Cape Canaveral for a big climax set around the imminent launch of the first manned moon mission.

As you may have heard, "Men in Black III" had a notoriously difficult time getting to the screen. There were years of false starts and rumors and by the time it finally launched production in order to take advantage of certain tax breaks, it was with an unfinished script and production actually ground to a halt for a while so that a platoon of writers could come in and attempt to fix things up. Therefore, I went into the film assuming that it would be a bit rough from a narrative standpoint but that it might make up for it with a return to the wit and ingenuity of the original. Instead, all I got was the deeply unpleasant discovery that even a film with a budget north of $200 million can still come across as being as stupid and stupefied as the cheapo crap on the SyFy network when put in the hands of people who just can't be bothered to make any sort of effort. The time-travel gimmick seems promising enough but the film never really makes any use of it beyond the obvious jokes and paradoxes. Towards the end, it tries to emulate the wacky blend of zany comedy and real-life history that Robert Zemeckis did so beautifully in such films as "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," "1941" and parts of "Back to the Future" by basing its climax around the Apollo 11 launch but even then, the film blows it by, in a misguided attempt to build suspense, asking us to believe that a government agent from our time could journey back in time to July of 1969, discover that the events he is following come to a head at Cape Canaveral and somehow not tie it in to what NASA is up to (even though it is on the headlines of every newspaper that we see). Either director Barry Sonnenfeld and credited screenwriter Etan Cohen just assume that viewers were too stupid to figure things out for themselves or they just didn't care. Either way, the basic plot is so lame and uninvolving that it would have gotten tossed out of a story meeting amongst little kids playing with action figures in a sandbox.

"Men in Black III" marks Will Smith's return to the big screen after a four-year hiatus but whatever goodwill there is to be had from a superstar emerging from a long absence is exhausted within a few minutes and is replaced by reminders of why most viewers were glad to be rid of him for a while. As he does in virtually ever movie where he is allowed to get away with it, his performance is just another variation of the fast-talking hipster persona he has been utilizing for years but to say that he is getting a little too old for that schtick is an understatement--he comes across less like a cocky hero and more like an aggravated case of arrested development. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the performance turned in by Tommy Lee Jones--the curmudgeonly grumpiness that used to define his character now seems to have been replaced by genuine loathing, to judge by their current on-screen chemistry, and if it weren't for the fact that Jones is gone for most of the film, there is an excellent chance that we might have seen him deck Smith at some point. As the new head of the MIB organization (replacing Rip Torn, whose character get the funeral that opens the film), Emma Thompson has absolutely nothing to do except for speaking in a silly alien dialect for a moment with a straight face while hoping that everyone will just forget that she was ever in the film in the first place. As the bad guy, Jermaine Clement is easily the dullest and most forgettable villain in the entire trilogy--a considerable achievement when you consider that one of them was once played by Lara Flynn Boyle.

From the sloppy nature of its entire conception to the conclusion that inexplicably tries to pull at the heartstrings in the lamest manner possible, "Men in Black III" is complete, contemptible junk but if you are willing to look hard enough and swallow a lot of crap in the meantime, there are a couple of elements that save it from complete disposability. As always, the creature effects from makeup master Rick Baker are a thing to behold--even the background beasts are deployed with a degree of detail and care that is utterly lacking in virtually every other aspect of the film. There is a kernel of an ingenious idea in the character played by Michael Stuhlbarg--an alien being who can see every possible variation of the timeline unfolding before his very eyes--that the film not only has no real idea of what to do with but further spoils it with a monologue in which he explains how the then-lowly Mets will eventually triumph over the seemingly indomitable Cubs. (I will admit it--I gave the finger to the movie screen at this point and if I ever seen this film again for some reason, I would cheerfully repeat my action with both fingers.) Finally, even though Josh Brolin is obviously too old to be playing a young Tommy Lee Jones, he so perfectly captures Jones' particular voice and demeanor, even while adding little touches of his own, that most will be able to forgive this discrepancy, easily the least of the film's problems. In fact, if ever there was to be a "Men in Black IV," I would be perfectly happy to see the return of these particular elements to the mix. Of course, considering that "Men in Black III" is a film made by people dopey enough to spend the entire film referring to the location of the climax as Cape Canaveral even though it was known as Cape Kennedy until 1973, I am not going to be holding my breath that they will recognize any good ideas or basic facts at this point anymore.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20764&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/24/12 14:51:55
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User Comments

12/23/12 mr.mike Better than the previous 2 movies. 4 stars
7/02/12 James Thomas I loved it watched it in 3D even better 5 stars
6/03/12 PAUL SHORTT A CLEAR IMPROVEMENT OVER ITS NIGH DISASTROUS PREDECESSOR 3 stars
5/28/12 KingNeutron I really liked Brolin's take on the character. Fun popcorn movie. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  25-May-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Nov-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  25-May-2012
  DVD: 27-Nov-2012


Directed by
  Barry Sonnenfeld

Written by
  Etan Cohen

Cast
  Tommy Lee Jones
  Will Smith



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