- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
en in Black 3” suffers from many of the same problems that plagued another recent release, “Dark Shadows.” Both movies have difficulty finding the right balance between wacky and serious; unlike “Dark Shadows,” though, “Men in Black 3” still manages to be entertaining, even when the movie turns into the 2000 thriller “Frequency” in the third act. It is by no means perfect, but is able to overcome its faults thanks to two game-saving performances by the supporting cast.
The movie begins with Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), the last of an alien race that consumes planets, escaping from his Moon-based prison. Boris’ first act as a free man is to exact revenge on Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), the man responsible for both his capture and the loss of his left arm. He has an unconventional way of carrying out his plan, though; he intends to travel back in time and kill Agent K before K can launch a defense program that saves Earth from an invasion by Boris’ people. When J (Will Smith) suddenly finds the present drastically altered – as in, Agent K is dead, and a massive alien invasion is under way – he travels back in time to the moment that K first captured Boris in order to save both K and the world.
The idea of exploring K’s back story is a good one, but it comes at a price. Much fun is had in the past – try not to spit out your popcorn when the one big pop culture icon from the era is unmasked – but the irreverent tone for which “Men in Black” is most widely known is sucked out of the room rather quickly. A fifth-dimensional, all-seeing alien named Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg) is introduced to lighten the mood, and he produces some laughs, but he spends most of the time offering vaguely ominous warnings about the path J is taking, and the movie’s overall tone follows suit. Worse, J’s path is telegraphed from the very beginning of the movie. It may lead to some intense moments, but no surprises.
Will Smith may have top billing, but this is Josh Brolin’s movie from the moment he appears on screen. As the young Agent K, Brolin absolutely nails Tommy Lee Jones’ mannerisms and vocal tics, and is a stitch to watch. Jemaine Clement is also lots of fun as Boris the Animal, with teeth that look like vampire teeth in reverse (the edges are pointy, not the middle). He gets neutered a bit at the end, but he gives his all from start to finish. Jones and Emma Thompson, the latter of whom plays the new MIB director O (insert your own joke here about the female director getting the name Agent O), do not get much screen time, though Thompson does get the chance to do something very funny and very unexpected. Smith’s job is just to manage the chaos around him, and wisely, he does just that. J may be driving the story, but it’s not his story, and Smith understands that.
“Men in Black 3” may be six or seven years past its sell-by date, but it still manages to hold its own despite some glitches in tone and pacing. They probably shouldn’t make a fourth one, but then again, they probably shouldn’t have made this one either, and it turned out all right.
Three-Disc Blu-ray Review:
It's a three-disc set, but the extras for "Men in Black 3" are a bit of a mixed bag. The featurettes are admittedly entertaining, but there is no audio commentary, and outside of the featurettes, the only other extras are a music video from Pitbull, a "Spot the Alien" game, a gag reel, and previews to other Sony movies. As funny as director Barry Sonnenfeld seems to be during the featurettes - he wears a different hat in nearly every shot - it would be fun to hear him contribute a commentary. Alas, not to be. Pity. The movie's definitely worth checking out, though.