Men in Black 3,
directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
(Sony, 2012)

It's great to see J and K back in black, again.

It's been a long decade since Men in Black II, the less impressive sequel to 1997's phenomenal Men in Black. And, while Will Smith (Agent J) and Tommy Lee Jones (Agent K) have aged into their roles, they haven't lost the touch that made them shine.

As always, the MiB franchise offers a colorful array of space creatures, as well as secret rooms, shiny guns, bowling, alien assassination plots and fish-slapping. The plot involves an alien who's been locked away on the moon for 40 years. He escapes and seeks revenge on K -- the man who shot off his arm and single-handedly stopped his race from invading the Earth -- by going back in time to kill his younger self.

But K's sudden disappearance from the timeline has major consequences, many more drastic than J's sudden unquenchable thirst for chocolate milk. So J also jumps -- and I do mean "jumps" -- to 1969 to save his partner.

MiB isn't necessarily about brilliant scriptwriting. But the movies are fun buddy-cop flicks set in a goofy science-fiction world, and the formula works. In fact, it works a lot better in MiB3 than ever it did in MiB2.

As good as it is to see Smith and Jones, it's likewise nice to see Tim Curry in yet another scenery-chewing villain role. As Boris-- wait, no. That's not Tim Curry behind that big makeup and alien prosthetics after all. But New Zealand actor Jemaine Clement was certainly channeling Curry like nobody's business, and that's not a complaint.

But the highest kudos here go to Josh Brolin, who had the difficult task of not only playing young Agent K, but of playing Tommy Lee Jones playing young Agent K. Wow.

Brolin plays K with a little more emotion than Jones allows to crack through his frosty demeanor -- a little -- but otherwise, he nailed it with something close to perfection. His mannerisms are spot-on, and it's hard to believe Jones himself didn't do the voiceover.

Emma Thompson replaces Rip Torn's Agent Zed in the leadership role, and her Agent O is pleasant without standing out from the crowd. Alice Eve is adequate as young Agent O, although she never strikes me as a young Thompson. The movie attempts to create a little romantic tension between O and K, both young and old models, but since that contradicts the most poignant bit of the first film -- i.e., K's long-lost love -- I opted to ignore it.

Another standout in the cast is Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin, an alien who sees possible futures just moments before they occur. He's a hoot and a half, and if there's a MiB4, I hope he's in it.

Oh, I forgot to mention Nicole Scherzinger, who makes a brief appearance as Boris's girlfriend. She brings the jiggly cake.

review by
Tom Knapp

14 July 2012

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