Bush-era sci-fi comedy series “Men in Black” – as equally well known for its groundbreaking special effects as it is that song (The good guys dress in black, remember that, just in case we ever face to face and make contact. The title held by me, MIB) – gets the unyielding trendy reboot treatment courtesy the same shingle that thought it a solid idea to refresh “Ghostbusters”, “The Karate Kid” and “RoboCop” (and next, “Charlie’s Angels” – out in November).
Don’t fret. Fortunately, most audience members who found some of those redos wretchedly painful to sit through won’t ask to be neutralized here.
While Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones’ beautifully timed, and completely charming shades-adorned duo are nowhere to be seen in ”Men in Black : International”, that same drive to focus largely on the witty banter and palpable, enjoyable bond between our heroes makes a welcome return.
As Agents H and M, respectively, Chris Hemsworth (ever so good at comedy, as evident in “Thor Ragnarok” and this year’s “Avengers Endgame”, with his work in 2016’s “Ghostbusters” also that film’s only few funny moments) and Tessa Thompson (a versatile up-and-comer who previously costarred with Hemsworth in the aforesaid superhero jaunts), have a Fonz and Richie chemistry that works so effortlessly well due to both the resourceful acting capabilities of the twosome, as well as Matt Holloway & Art Marchum‘s clever, amusing dialogue.
Seems the MIB have now agencies around the world – and new recruit M (Tessa Thompson, always ‘Jackie’ from “Veronica Mars” to me) is about to discover just how fast she can get to her newly assigned post at the UK branch.
There, she’s teamed with celebrated Agent H (Hemsworth) and the pair set out to trek a new alien threat – that can take the form of anyone (hint hint) – that has them dashing about London, Paris, and Morocco.
Their beginning moments beautifully mapped out, and their early scenes together both giggle and awe-worthy, Hemsworth and Thompson unquestionably pass muster as the new leads of the billion-dollar franchise.
Coupled with some very ingenious early twists and some wonderfully-visualized action sequences, it’s fun getting to know agents H and M.
Just as soon as one is ready to count down the days to the sequel, the crumbs start to pour off the loaf.
Suggesting an abundance of studio notes and the inability to come up with an ending as fun as its beginning, the film’s pacey, fresh and very enjoyable first half slowly transitions into a rather ho-hum, forced (especially true where a cute pint-sized alien creature named ‘Pawny’ comes into play) and unexciting second hour. If you will, what begins as the super successful “Men in Black” becomes the messy “Men in Black 3”.
To look at it another way, the film nails the pilot episode – the introductions, that first meeting, that first case – but when it’s first episode rolls out, it’s clear someone’s forget to turn their iPhone alarm off silent the morning of the brainstorming sesh for the third act.
While Hemsworth and Thompson manage to salvage most of the movie, their better known co-stars aren’t much help.
Sure, it’s great to see the always-dependable Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson, here playing the heads of the organization on respective sides of the pond, but director F.Gary Gray (no match for Barry Sonnenfeld, director of the original trilogy) and his wordsmiths have lean, unremarkable portions for them here. Neeson, especially, is introduced as one of the more intriguing characters in the newly rejigged universe but ultimately is reduced to little more than a hot prop.
Rebecca Ferguson, too, is under utilized in a quick part as one of Agent H’s former flames and a villain.
And don’t even get me started on the twins that played the ostensible rogues of the movie. Were they as confused by their motivation in the movie as the audience?
Still, even when the chips are down, there’s still enough lively, fun-looking stuff going on on the floor to spur punters from getting up out of their seat.
In short : There’s fun here, mostly thanks to the film’s cheery, dynamic duo, and some admirable effects gags, but even that level of firepower isn’t a match for the dreaded studio bean counter with the inane ideas.