Movie Review ~ Men in Black III

The Facts:

Synopsis: Agent J travels in time to MIB’s early years in the 1960s, to stop an alien from assassinating his friend Agent K and changing history.

Stars: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emma Thompson

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 103 minutes

Random Crew Highlight:  Strange Woman (uncredited) ~ Jennifer Bartels

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review:  Dictionary.com defines serviceable as “capable of or ready for service; usable” and this is an exceedingly good way to describe Men in Black III.  After a ten year hiatus MIB3 is being unleashed into theaters smack dab in the middle of prime summer kick off season.  It’s a perfectly fine movie that never does more or less than is required of it.  The problem with that is with The Avengers going above and beyond the call of duty and several other hotly anticipated films being released in the next few weeks is “perfectly fine” good enough?

The film is aided immensely by two new additions to the team.  First up is screenwriter Etan Cohen who has worked closely with Mike Judge on King of the Hill and was the writer for Tropic Thunder.   His screenplay has a nice creativity to it while furthering the story of our central characters.  Cohen is smart enough to play to the strengths of both men and while Jones’ Agent K is absent most of the film, his doppelganger Brolin plays the young K with spot-on accuracy.  Brolin is actually the other strong feature on display.  As I mentioned before, he’s the perfect choice of a young Jones and nails the squinty glare and country twang that Jones should probably trademark.

Smith is an actor that’s really never done much for me and that opinion isn’t going to change based on his work here.  I always feel that Smith is playing himself and has just showed up to say his lines and collect his check.  Yes, he brings a certain suaveness and comedy to the role but how does it different from the suaveness and comedy of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or the suaveness and comedy of Hitch or the suaveness and comedy of Wild Wild West?  I long for Smith to try something new and play a villain…not just an unlikable character.

Even if the film gives Smith a nice arc near the end it didn’t make-up for the previous ninety minutes of posing and smart alecky antics that feels out of date and incongruous with the free-spirited tone of the movie.  Smith needs to take a page from Jones who displays the right amount of exhaustion and timing that the film deserves.  He’s able to convey bemusement in a face with more lines than a Moliere play and not make you feel he’s running through the paces.

Supporting player Thompson also is smart enough to color her limited screen time with tongue planted firmly in cheek.  With a perfectly coiffed head of hair and that no-nonsense accent, she’s a nice addition to the boys club although she disappears about halfway through and her presence in the final act is missed.

The main villain, Boris the Animal, is given life by Flight of the Conchords star Clement in an absurdly strange performance.  With a badly dubbed voice modulation, the impressive part here is Rick Baker’s fun creature effects.  Like Boris, his imagination runs wild throughout the movie causing equal amounts of havoc for the characters and glee for the audience. 

That’s where the Men in Black series has always excelled, the visual effects.  Leaving no end of the galaxy unexplored the creative juices are squeezed for all they are worth and that’s where the real enjoyment of the film is to be had.  The general plot concerning Agent J’s time-travel to 1969 to head off past and present Boris interacting with past Agent K is a nice structure to display mod elements both worldly and otherworldly. 

Director Sonnenfeld is back for a third time as well and he continues to mine the talents he gained as a cinematographer (Misery, Big, When Harry Met Sally…, Blood Simple) by finding interesting angles and shots that work well with the 3D effects.  It’s not at all necessary to see the film in 3D but if you do find yourself putting on the glasses, rest assured that it does look good.  Danny Elfman’s score is more of the same…his recent work on Dark Shadows notwithstanding I think Elfman’s work all sounds like something off the same album.

While the first Men in Black was an ambitious romp, its sequel was a turgid mess of inflated egos and budgets run amok that made a lot of money while simultaneously turning its audience off.  A decade later I feel a bit more forgiving and found some saving graces to this third entry.  Aside from Smith’s half committed performance, this could be a worthwhile trip to the movies if your outer space needs have not yet been met.