daniel cohen reviews the third installment of the sci-fi series…
Plot: When Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), an old enemy of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), breaks out of prison, he travels back in time to disrupt the future. Agent J (Will Smith) follows suit to the 1960’s, as he and the younger K (Josh Brolin) pursue the villain and try to restore balance to the universe.
The strangest thing about Men in Black 3 isn’t that we never hear the hit title song of yesteryear, but rather it’s the first movie in which the quintessential movie star Will Smith actually looks like he’s aged. If Agent J said in this movie, “I’m getting too old for this shit,” I’d believe him. It’s odd to see him look out of place in the role that propelled him to movie stardom back in 1997, but it was like watching Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull … it just looked weird. And no, I’m not comparing Agent J to Indiana Jones, so calm down. I’m just trying to make a point. I guess it helps to pair him with the 235 year old Tommy Lee Jones (okay, he’s really just 65), and make him look younger by comparison. At the end of the day though, Smith’s age is far from the problem with this movie. While it has its charming moments, the best word to describe Men in Black 3 is ‘lackluster.’
I’ve never been enamored with this series. In fact, I never even saw MIB II, but I thought the original was a solid movie. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what makes this franchise work. It’s not the aliens, but rather the chemistry between Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. It’s a pretty straight forward relationship. Jones is the crabby by the book numbers kind of guy, and Smith is the wise cracking side kick. It’s just watching two great actors feed off each other. Now Tommy Lee Jones isn’t really in this very long, but that’s not a problem, because Josh Brolin plays the younger Agent K, and is an exact carbon copy of Tommy Lee Jones, so we’re fine there. It’s an impressive performance from Brolin. So what else in the movie did I like besides the K and J relationship? Uhhhhh…
In all seriousness though, the main problem with this film, and it’s the same problem I had with the original, is that this is full of great and clever ideas, but the script is just lazy. And it’s even worse with this one. I think the world of Men in Black is a cool concept, and is ripe with comedic genius, but it’s just never funny here. I don’t think I laughed more than three times. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just mediocre. They even repeat things from the original. Oh look, the TV screens are in the background with aliens posing as well known celebrities … yay. Will Smith’s jokes are especially dated. He says ‘shiznit’ at one point. Really … shiznit? Wow. Why not just play Smash Mouth’s All-Star, and have someone yell ‘Waaaaaaaaaaaz up’ while you’re at it.
The performances are pretty solid for the most part. I already talked about Smith, Jones, and Brolin, but Emma Thompson also does a great job of playing the new MIB Chief, Agent O, as does Alice Eve who plays the younger version. Bill Hader is also pretty funny as Andy Warhol, and I really liked the villain Boris the Animal played by Jemaine Clement. Although much like the story, the villain here is another example of wasted potential. He could have been so much more, but the writers simply said, ‘eh, let’s just make him want to invade Earth.’
What also threw me off was how JV the special effects looked. In 1997, the aliens looked fairly innovative. Here they look the same as they did back in 1997 … not so innovative anymore. I’m not a big special effects guy, but it is distracting, and does look cheap.
While this was fairly underwhelming, I’ll give the film credit for never boring me. I was certainly never wowed, but I did want to see how this was all going to shake out, even if the end does get painfully predictable. The relationship between J and K, whether it’s with Tommy Lee Jones or Josh Brolin, was enough to keep my interest piqued. When J’s alone though, it’s not great. I don’t think that’s so much a Will Smith issue, as it is a writing issue. At the end of the day, this is an okay flick, but do we really need to see a Men in Black 4? Probably not.
Rating: 6 out of 10 (‘meh’)