The Men in Black movies (1997 and 2002) have relied on the chemistry between stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones to lift them above the humdrum. So what happens when one of those stars is mostly absent from the third installment?
The risky solution is to bring in Josh Brolin to play Mr. Jones’ Agent K as a younger man. This talented actor bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Tommy Lee Jones, but it’s his mannerisms, his inflection, and his acting that truly captures the essence of the MIB crime fighter.
Directed by series regular Barry Sonnenfeld, Men in Black III kicks off with a spectacular prison break on the moon, where Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) has been held captive for over 40 years. With the help of an organic birthday cake brought to him by the jiggly Lilly (Nicole Scherzinger), Boris busts out to exact revenge on his old nemesis Agent K, who not only incarcerated him but also shot off his arm. Time-travelling to 1969, he kills K, which means Agent J (Smith) must travel back in time to save the future.
Time travel in movies is always eye-poppingly complex. There are gadgets, caveats and strange clairvoyant characters (Michael Stuhlbarg looking like a Mork-era Robin Williams) who make eerie pronouncements. And there are always loopholes. I spent a good amount of time trying to gauge the age of K, wondering how J could possibly look so youthful and pondering the exact nature of the relationship of K and O (Emma Thompson). But no matter—the more pressing question is simply: is Men in Black III fun?
The answer is a reserved “yes.” The script seems a little loose and many jokes fall short of hilarious despite Will Smith clearly working overtime. But the special effects are stunning, the cool “to the moon!” sixties setting is a hoot, and as always Rick Baker’s alien creatures leap off the screen in glorious 3D. But the real triumph rests in the emotion-filled relationship between J and K (whether played by Jones orBrolin). Thus, Men in Black IIIwill have no trouble keeping Columbia Pictures in the black.
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