By Mike Smith
It’s been 10 years since Agent’s “J” and “K” have made our world safe from aliens. A lot of things have changed since then. A lot hasn’t. But when the fate of the world depends on things changing 40 years in the past, who you gonna call? No, not the Ghostbusters!
The original “Men in Black” was the second of three summer films that established Will Smith as a bonafide box office star (and a sure bet to open a film over the 4th of July). His young buck agent “J” played perfectly off of Tommy Lee Jones’ gruff agent “K.” “MIB 3” finds them just as we remember them. But MIB itself has changed. The new head of the agency is the lovely “O” (Emma Thompson). She and “K” appear to have a bit of a past but if that’s true she’s not saying. When a galactic menace named Boris the Animal ( played by “Flight of the Conchords” Jemaine Clement) escapes his lunar prison, intending to settle a long time score with “K”, “J” must travel back in time to 1969, where he again encounters “K” (a brilliant Josh Brolin). While there doors are unlocked and questions are answered.
A resounding return to the magic that made the original “Men in Black” so successful, “MIB 3” is what a summer movie should be: FUN! Well written and featuring some of the best effects on screen this year (my apologies, “Avengers”), the film also features some fine performances. Smith easily slips back into the wise cracking “J” while Jones has mastered the crusty old mentor role. The standout here is Brolin, who nails Jones’ mannerisms and vocal tics. Every time he calls Smith “slick,” hondo” or “sport” you almost expect to see Jones standing behind him. Clement is also solid in a role I never would have considered him for. His Boris the Animal (“it’s JUST Boris,” he hisses when addressed by his full moniker) is truly evil and much more suited to take over the world then Johnny Knoxville’s head in “MIB 2.” The visual effects are just as sharp, with 12 time Oscar nominee (and 7 time winner, including for the original “Men in Black”) Rick Baker and staff outdoing themselves.
Director Sonnenfeld keeps the pace moving smoothly while the script by, among others, Etan Coen (“Tropic Thunder”) and David Koepp (“Jurassic Park,” “Spider-man”) delivers the humor as well as an unexpected emotional payoff. As in the other films in the series, the production values are top notch with special credit going to cinematographer going to Bill Pope (the “Matrix” films, “Spider-Man 2 and 3”), whose lens seemingly captured a post card of New York City, circa 1969. Credit as well to long time Sonnenfeld production designer Bo Welch, whose attention to the detail of the late 1960s is outstanding.
Summer is about having fun with people you know. Plan to spend some time with agents “J” and “K.”