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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



Men in Black 3
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by Brett Gallman

"A surprisingly decent sequel that few people seemed to ask for."
3 stars

I’ll give “Men in Black III” this much: it’s yet another outing where Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones have to save the world from an alien invasion, but it at least throws in a time-travel wrinkle that allows it to become a movie about Will Smith and Josh Brolin saving the world, and the concept puts the slightest spring back into the franchise's step.

The battle for the world is actually lost rather early on, as Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) breaks out of the space prison that Agent K (Jones) tossed him into over 40 years ago. Still miffed over the imprisonment and the fact that K blew his arm off in a scuffle, he hops back to 1969 to exact revenge, which sets off a chain reaction that results in his home planet invading Earth in the present day. Only Agent J (Smith) seems to be aware of any of this, leaving him to thwart Boris’s plot in 1969 alongside a 29 year old K (a 44 year old Brolin, which might be the film’s best joke).

Even as a child of the 90s who saw the original on opening night, I never held much affinity for the “Men in Black” films, so I’m a little surprised to have had so much fun with part 3, a film that even the most die-hard fans probably weren't clamoring to see. Unlike the previous installments, it's actually about its leads and doesn't simply treat them as a means to a world-saving end. There are more personal stakes here that ground things a bit, a fact that’s evident early on when J laments his lack of a real relationship with K even after fifteen years of working together.

It all feels like a setup to the punch-line that is Brolin’s Agent K; while he certainly nails Jones’s demeanor and inflection, he also finds a little bit more warmth and humor in the character. This is K before he was rendered perpetually surly by a major event that rendered him so prickly, and there’s no shortage of attempts to play off of this. Of course, this is “Men in Black,” so don’t expect to plumb the depths of these guys’ psyches or anything, but the sentiment, while cornball and treacly, is appreciated, right down to a convoluted play at karmic pathos late in the film.

Beyond this, “Men in Black 3” is featherweight and slight, a glossy by-the-numbers kicking of a franchise’s tires that trots out familiar gags and safe attempts at humor. There are a few genuine laughs parceled throughout, and the film is agreeable enough to zip right along without much incident. Like the films before it, it boils down to a quest that finds Smith and Brolin chasing down an object before Boris can acquire it first, so there’s a requisite amount of chases, shootouts and encounters with bizarre creatures, none of which are staged with a whole lot of imagination. Even the climax, which features Clement portraying both versions of Boris, is devoid of any real inventiveness to take advantage of the unique situation.

The film’s various aliens, however, serve as a reminder that Rick Baker is the unsung hero of this series. He particularly embraces the period setting by designing a horde of retro aliens that would look right at home in a 50s sci-fi movie, complete with bulbous heads, exposed brains, tentacles and the like. Even when they’re relegated to hanging out in the background of the now 60s-chic MIB headquarters, they represent a cool cosmopolitan gathering of inventive masks and costumes that’s reminiscent of Mos Eisley. Baker’s best work isn’t exclusive to the 60s, as there’s also a fun early showdown at a Chinese restaurant that features real, tactile effects work.

The period setting is otherwise incidental; there’s some expected fish-out-of-water stuff with J and a couple of racist cops, plus a run-in with Andy Warhol (Bill Hader in a noteworthy cameo), but the 60s are largely just a backdrop from which to mine a few extra jokes. Hippies and counterculture pop up intermittently as the obligatory signposts, and the joke (of course) is that they’re all aliens anyway. That the 60s just sort of fade away perhaps isn’t all that surprising since the “Men in Black” movies have been vaguely retro since their inception, with the first film especially being steeped in the iconography of the mid-20th century UFO craze. After all, the big gag there was that the truth is not only out there--it’s been in our tabloids for decades.

I suppose “Men In Black 3” mostly captures the spirit of the original; maybe it’s been the ten year layoff, but its jauntiness and light-heartedness make it passable popcorn fare that’s content to skid by on Will Smith’s shtick (time-traveling straight from the 90s streets of Bel Air) and Brolin’s dead-on impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones (whose fifteen minutes of screen time all but scream “I’m too old for this shit”).

The rest of the cast is rounded out by solid performances that are given little screen time; Clement’s antagonist practically disappears in the second act, while Emma Thompson and Alice Eve play the older and younger version of the new MIB head agent, O, and, like many of the pretty things in the movie, they’re mere window dressing. Michael Stuhlbarg emerges as the expectedly effective Griff, a lilt-voiced alien sidekick who, like Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, is unstuck in time and granted the ability to see all possible futures. His asides about infinitesimal details determining these possibilities is about as hard as the film gets in terms of sci-fi, but they’re neat enough to chew over.

If nothing else, “Men in Black 3” acts as a deneuralizer for the second film, not that it’s particularly needed since I’m guessing anyone would be hard pressed to remember anything about it anyway (let’s just say it was made during a time when someone thought it was okay to make a movie featuring a two-headed Johnny Knoxville and leave it at that). Maybe the bar was set so low that part three could easily hop over it, but it does so with an affable ease.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20764&reviewer=429
originally posted: 05/23/12 12:46:35
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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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