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Dan's Review: Men in Black 3

Third time's the charm?
Men in Black 3 (Columbia)

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content.

Starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mike Colter, Nicole Scherzinger, Michael Chernus, Alice Eve, David Rasche, Keone Young, Bill Hader.

Etan Cohen, David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson, Michael Soccio, based on the comic by Lowell Cunningham.

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.

GRADE: B-

REVIEW:


Sequels can be a troubling exercise of faith. You hope the new chapter is as good as the first. Sometimes it works out that way (Spiderman 2, The Godfather Part 2, Aliens), but too many times the second act is either a second-rate rehash of the original, or just plain terrible. Men in Black 2 (2002) was one of those forgettable stinkers, so it was even more puzzling to discover that after 10 years, it was obviously time for a third installment in the franchise.

Men in Black 3 stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as Agents J and K, members of the secret government watchdog operation that polices alien visitors to Earth. The story picks up in present day, 14 years after K recruited J into the agency, and just after the death off MIB leader Zed (Rip Torn - I don't know why he wasn't opted into another MIB movie), who does not appear in the film. Replacing Zed is Agent O (Emma Thompson) as chief of the Men (Women?) in Black organization.

Meanwhile on a lunar prison unit, the evil Boris "The Animal" (Jemaine Clement), an alien  Bogladite bent on destroying every planet (including Earth) escapes and plans a time travel trip back to 1969, so he can kill the younger K before he shoots off his arm and imprisons him. Boris is successful, and alters history. For some unexplained reason, J is unaffected by the shift in the space/time continuum, and reports for work in the present day with a Bogladite invasion on the way, unaware that he's lived the past 14 years without his mentor (I have a bunch of time travel issues with this movie, which I'll get to later). J convinces O that a life without K is wrong, and O encourages J to go back in time a few days before K's 1969 death, which happened at the Apollo 11 launch at Cape Canaveral.

During J's trip back to 1969, he meets the younger K (Josh Brolin) and convinces his future partner that Boris is out to kill him, and that there are two of the evil alien to deal with. J and K enlist the help of Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), another alien with the ability to see alternate futures. Griffin also holds a technology that will place a Bogladite-impenatrable force field over the planet that must ride along with the lunar launch in order to work.

J, K, Griffin and both Borises all meet at the launch to confront each other, but which reality will prevail?

First, the good news: MIB 3 is much better than MIB 2, but not quite as good as the original MIB. Of course, it didn't take much to outpace the humorless MIB 2, with its lackluster villains and forgettable plot. Most of the humor in MIB 3 comes from the fish-out-of-water experience of J living in 1969. The other bright spot for MIB 3 is Brolin, who delivers a spot-on impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones, complete with his deadpan dialogue delivery. Another performance of note is Bill Hader, playing an MIB agent disguised as Andy Warhol.

The bad news for MIB 3 is the aforementioned unexplainable holes in the time travel situations, complete with a surprise ending that goes a little far into trite sentimentality. There were rumors of script problems throughout the production, and the shaky storyline suggests the rumors were true. It seemed to me that director Barry Sonnenfeld's team of writers were trying a little too hard to recapture the success of the original, and left more than a few head-shaking plot holes in the process.

Even with its flaws, MIB 3 is sometimes fun, but it's not quite the thrill ride you got from the original.


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