May 27, 2012

Movie Review: Men in Black 3

Did I like the first Men in Black? Yes, that was a fun and clever movie. How about the 2002 sequel? No, I did not like that one. I could not tell you any details as I have pretty much erased it from my mind, unlike the original, which has just faded with the passing of time. It has been some time since I have seen either of them. Now, fifteen years since the first one arrived on the big screen we are faced with a sequel I am fairly certain no one asked for. I suspect director Barry Sonnenfeld was looking to prove he could still make movies after the awful RV. Even though I was really not expecting much from it, I ventured into the dark theater with nothing but hopes for a good time.

What I found in that theater is a movie that erases the bad taste of the sequel and gives me warm thoughts of the original. This unnecessary sequel is charming, funny, and just really rather enjoyable. I cannot say that it pushes any new ground, but it has some fun characters, clever jokes and quips, and the whole feels very comfortable.

This new story finds Agents K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith), under the direction of Agent O (Emma Thompson), faced with recapturing a particularly nasty villain named Boris the Animal  (Jemaine Clement). Boris is the last of his race and has recently escaped from Lunar Max prison with a quest of vengeance. He wishes to have revenge on K for shooting off his arm, and to do this he has gotten his hands on a time travel device and is traveling back to 1969 to kill K before he has the chance to do the deed in the first place.

This time travel assassination leads to a ripple through time and space leading to chocolate milk cravings and an alien invasion that threatens to destroy the Earth. It is up to J to travel back in time, following Boris, and prevent the time line from being disrupted. This is no easy task.

As J travels back, he finds himself working alongside the now young K (portrayed by Josh Brolin). They are working on catching Boris before he does his evil deed. Fortunately, they have the help of fellow MiB agent Andy Warhol (Bill Hader), and an alien named Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg) who can see all potential outcomes, a characteristic which makes him more than a little jumpy.

The story is really rather simple and the movie relies on the very entertaining portrayals of our favorite agents. There is really just something safe and comforting about this movie. It is like visiting with old friends and learning the crazy imagination they had years ago is still there. Some of the sets are a lot of fun, the idea of jumping from the Chrysler building to initiate the time jump to the action bit at Cape Canaveral near the climax, not to mention what they find in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant.

There is even a nice dose of heart as we learn some more about our characters. I will not tell you here, but it is rather touching and brings just a little more depth to our partners relationship. Beyond that, I liked the part that the Mets, and Shea Stadium play, much like in the original. There is a moment where we can glimpse the past and see the stadium that used to stand in Flushing. It brought a little tear to my eye.

In the end, there is nothing keeping me from recommending this movie. It is not great, it is not destined to be remembered in years to come, but what it does do is provide slick cinematic entertainment that is free from cynicism and makes you just smile. Oh yes, and watching Josh Brolin be Tommy Lee Jones is pretty awesome.


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