Thursday, May 31, 2012

Movie Review: Men in Black III

Men in Black III ***
Directed by: Barry Sonnefeld.
Written by: Etan Cohen based on the comic by Lowell Cunningham.
Starring: Will Smith (Agent J), Tommy Lee Jones (Agent K), Josh Brolin (Young Agent K), Jemaine Clement (Boris The Animal), Emma Thompson (Agent O), Michael Stuhlbarg (Griffin), Mike Colter (Colonel), Nicole Scherzinger (Boris' Girlfriend), Michael Chernus (Jeffrey Price), Alice Eve (Young Agent O), David Rasche (Agent X), Keone Young (Mr. Wu), Bill Hader (Andy Warhol).

I wasn’t much of a fan of the first Men in Black, and I down right hated Men in Black II – but given that’s it’s been 15 years since the first film, and 10 since the second, I’m not sure I could really tell you why. Before catching Men in Black III, I watched a few minutes of both films when they played on TV in the week leading up to release, and nothing I saw made me want to watch any more. Perhaps it was because of my low expectations, but I actually found myself enjoying Men in Black III from beginning to end. It’s not a great movie by any means, but it got a nice, light, comedic tone, it moves rapidly, and it genuinely fun.

The movie opens with a prison break from a maximum security institution on the moon. Boris the Animal (Jermaine Clement) escapes, and comes back to earth – looking to set the mistakes he made in the past right. The biggest one is allowing his arm to be blown off and being arrested by Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) way back in 1969. He knows someone who knows how to time travel – and he wants to go back and kill Agent K before he can arrest him. When K finds out, he becomes even more closed off and secretive than usual, and he refuses to talk to J (Will Smith) about it. The next day, when J wakes up, he finds himself in a slightly different world – one where no one remembers K after 1969 because that is when Boris the Animal killed him. For some reason though, J can remember K. And so, he also travels back in time to 1969 – and teams up with a young K (Josh Brolin) to bring down two different Boris’.

The time travel story line is a nice touch – and allows some freshness to sneak into the movie. The best thing about the film is Josh Brolin’s performance as a young Tommy Lee Jones. He nails the Southern drawl, the mannerisms, and the matter of factness about Jones – and you never for a minute doubt that Brolin could eventually become Jones. Yes, the performance is an extended, feature length impression, but it’s such a great one you don’t really care. I do wish that the talented Clement, who still has not found a film role that matches his talent level, had been given a little more to do. Yes, his smile is a creepy, psychopathic grin, but that is about all. Better is Michael Stuhlberg as an alien with the curse of being able to see multiple futures at the same time, who creates, a brilliant, funny, one of a kind character. And Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader is a blast in his one scene as Andy Warhol. Carrying the movie is Will Smith, who is in full Will Smith movie star mode, which is still fun, if not exactly ground-breaking.

Directed by Barry Sonnefeld, who also helmed the first two films, does a fine job here. The special effects are effective, but not overpowering like many we see in summer blockbusters. The pace moves along quickly and never really lags in any points. No, this is not great directing – it’s a little by the numbers – but then again, so is the movie.

Men in Black III is not a great summer entertainment – but it is a fun ride. It is forgettable entertainment, but it is fun while it lasts – mainly because of Brolin, but there is enough around the edges to make this enjoyable fare.

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