Men in Black 3 (2012)

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Men in Black 3Starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jermaine Clement, Emma Thompson

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost ten years since we last saw a Men in Black flick on the big screen, but after that abysmal second installment, apparently the creative powers-that-be decided they needed a few (or ten) years to work the kinks out, and now Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back in action for Men in Black 3 to once again save the planet from a dangerous alien race that has its sights set on dominating Earth.

As this third intergalactic adventure begins, we are introduced to a deadly alien named Boris “The Animal” (Jermaine Clement), who is currently serving time in a maximum security prison; he finds himself being broken out of jail by his special lady friend and sets out to kill the man responsible for his incarceration- Agent K.

All of this ends up being a set-up for Agent J to have to time travel to the year 1969 in order to save K and the world from Boris’ plan to eliminate Agent K because if K kicks the bucket, a whole mess of things will happen that puts the whole planet in risk (it is as convoluted as it sounds). So when he arrives in 1969, J crosses paths with a much younger and much happier Agent K (Josh Brolin), who reluctantly accepts the help of his new anachronistic friend to stop Boris and save Earth (and himself) from total annihilation.

Overall Men In Black III ends up being some pretty fluffy and silly stuff that, while an improvement over its immediate predecessor, fails to capture much of the humor and zaniness of the original 1997 flick. It’s certainly not the worst movie to be released this year or anything, but it just feels a bit forced, uninspired and ‘ho-hum.’ Sure, the movie manages to be charming at times, but that’s due mostly to Smith doing his damnedest to keep things interesting even though he had little material to work with and Brolin coming into this third installment and basically out-Tommy-Lee-Jonesing Tommy Lee Jones, making the veteran actor seem even more out of place in this series than ever.

To be honest, the only real reason for horror fans to show up for Men in Black III is for the skilled artistry of make-up effects master Rick Baker, who once again delivers some of the most stunning and inventive alien creatures that truly are a sight to behold on the big screen. They all pop vividly and work seamlessly with their CG enhancements, making for a flawless look (which generally never happens). The design and CG work on Boris in particular was effectively menacing and incredibly striking; Baker very well could be looking at another Oscar nomination with his work here. It just seems like he really had a lot of fun this time around with all of his designs on Men in Black 3, and it feels like it has been a while since we’ve seen the acclaimed artist really embrace his more whimsical side, like he does here.

Will Men in Black 3 win over viewers who have already written off these movies as nothing more than empty popcorn fodder? Probably not. Does it at least make some improvements over the insipid Men in Black II? Absolutely. But overall, there’s just nothing really that remarkable about Men in Black 3, proving once again that you can’t substitute style for substance. Even though the flick looks great (especially in 3D IMAX) and features a few fun performances (Brolin in particular), it never overcomes its paper thin plot and muddled second act that deflates any sort of energy established early on and becomes another cinematic case of “oh, what could have been…”

2 1/2 out of 5

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