Stephen Rebello reviews Men in Black III and poses the question, "Do we actually need another Men in Black movie?"
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld MPAA Rating: PG-13 Studio: Amblin Entertainment
Nowhere near as exhilarating as the first, a triumph compared to the second, Men in Black III offers one sci-fi alternative to a moviegoing summer front-loaded with caped avengers in tights. But not much more. Leaving aside the question, “Do we actually need another Men in Black movie?” the long opening sequence of the Barry Sonnenfeld-directed threequel apparently expects to hitch a ride on nostalgia – that is, the audience’s residual affection for the cranky but now threadbare chemistry between Will Smith’s Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’s Agent K.
The basic setup involves the prison break of savage, snarling alien kill-machine Boris the Animal, Flight of the Conchords’ Jermaine Clement who is straitjacketed without a single funny line, is traveling back to 1969 to terminate the younger Agent K. Happily, that dastardly move partners Smith with Jones’ earlier incarnation – a terrific, movie-stealing Josh Brolin who supplies Smith with a worthy sparring partner and jumpstarts things with a crackling energy completely absent from the Smith-Jones scenes.
The two travel back to the 1960s to blow away Boris and, from there, things boom and strobe in cool retro colors, much noise gets made and scenes pile atop each other, but little of it sticks; the thing feels oddly disembodied, dispirited and old-fashioned. There is a fun stopover sequence set in the groovy Factory of Andy Warhol who is played by Bill Hader, some choice creature makeup by ace Rick Baker, an all-too-brief appearance by Michael Stuhlbarg as an endearingly off center oddball, and some trippy alien baddies.
That’s about the size of it. If only the film’s reported $300 million-plus production and advertising costs could have bought the moviemakers and stars a time-travel ticket back to the late 1990s. Maybe they might have reconnected with who and what they were back when Men in Black felt fresh, inventive and high spirited.