Saturday, June 02, 2012

Men in Black 3

MEN IN BLACK 3 (Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012)

Agent J (Will Smith) must time-jump to the summer of 1969 to save his partner and the planet in MEN IN BLACK 3.  He’s in pursuit of Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement), a notorious alien killer who escapes from a maximum security prison on the moon and is hellbent on visiting the past so he can eliminate Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones in the present-day scenes, Josh Brolin in 1969).

Boris succeeds, which wipes K from the memories of everyone at Men in Black headquarters except for J.  This historical revision means that K was never able to put a safety shield around Earth, thus making it susceptible to invasion from Boris’s warmongering race, the Boglodites.  New chief Agent O (Emma Thompson) figures out that time travel has been involved and dispatches J to restore order by time-jumping to a day before his gruff associate’s death at the Apollo 11 launch and stopping Boris.

MEN IN BLACK 3 arrives fifteen years after the original and a decade after the franchise’s first sequel.  Consider this installment a reunion in which Smith is in charge of assuring everyone that it will be a good time and Jones makes a token appearance because he’s obligated to do so.  Inevitably someone has work done to maintain a youthful appearance at these get-togethers.  To keep up with the times it is rendered in 3D. 
MEN IN BLACK 3 can be a pleasant reminder of goofy, special effects-laden summer blockbusters of old that weren’t preoccupied with origin stories, world-building, and their own importance and seriousness.  Director Barry Sonnenfeld’s sci-fi comedy maintains a breezy tone that keeps it agreeable even when the lightness feels more forced than natural.  The good jokes in MEN IN BLACK 3 don’t nudge the needle much on the laugh-o-meter while the unsuccessful ones land softly instead of hitting with a thud.  

The millions lavished on creature designs and action scenes are meant to impress, yet the filmmakers are less concerned with drawing attention to the expense than delighting in the absurdity of how the aliens look and the craziness of the scenarios.  Despite the huge budget, MEN IN BLACK 3 is comfortable as a B movie and isn’t trying to prove itself as anything else.

Brolin’s impersonation is so good it wouldn’t be a shock to learn that the performance is actually achieved through CGI wizardry de-aging the crusty Jones instead of a younger colleague imitating him.  In supporting roles Michael Stuhlbarg adds genuine sweetness as Griffin, an alien who can envision the multiple conclusions of every scenario, and Bill Hader gets laughs with his zany spin on Andy Warhol.

MEN IN BLACK 3’s modest charms aren’t plentiful.  The mild laughs come sporadically.  It delivers what is expected, more or less, and doesn’t strain in the effort. The eager-to-please attitude and sleek sets provide relief from the somber mood and environments in vogue in tentpole films.  As far as unnecessary sequels are concerned, MEN IN BLACK 3 is a serviceable addition to the series.  

Grade: C+

No comments:

Post a Comment