Men in Black III
Lost Their Sense of Humor

Making a sequel to Men in Black was completely understandable.  You might even say that it was the logical move.  After all, the first movie was quite entertaining and proved to be a major success at the box-office.  The second movie, however, was a disaster; getting by on the first film’s reputation more than any genuine entertainment value of its own.  That should have been it, but here we are ten years later and the mysterious guys with the sunglasses and the dark suits are back once more to protect humanity from knowing that we are not alone.  Unfortunately, in the past ten years it feels like most people have forgotten about the franchise that is known for erasing people’s memories.  Too bad Men in Black III does little to remind us of why we liked these guys in the first place.

Agents J and K are still partners, but it seems they haven’t learned anything new about each other in the past two years.  Following the funeral for Zed, Agent J begins to realize that he really doesn’t know who his partner—and only friend—really is and he becomes desperate to find out.  His opportunity arrives when a revenge-seeking alien travels back in time to kill K, causing ripples in the time-space continuum that could lead to the destruction of planet Earth.  Somehow being the only person who is aware of this rip in the fabric of time, Agent J time-jumps back to 1969 to stop Boris the Animal (“it’s just Boris!”) before he can destroy his partner.

Barry Sonnenfeld, director of Men in Black 3What J wasn’t expecting, however, was to run into the younger version of his partner.  After convincing the young K that he isn’t crazy and he did indeed travel back in time, the two agents team up again (for the first time?) and set out to find Boris, hoping stop him from altering the future.  To do this, they must meet up with undercover agent Andy Warhol, check in on the Miracle Mets, and even show up at one of the most famous events in the history of mankind.

It has been well publicized that director Barry Sonnenfeld and company were making this movie without even having a completed script and that definitely comes out in the finished product.  The time-travel story is essentially bits and pieces of the Back to the Future trilogy, clumsily put together.  While watching the movie, you can imagine the screenwriters desperately working to come up with reasons why Agent J is apparently the only one in the universe who still remembers K from yesterday when everyone else believes he has been dead for 43 years. Their solution is really weak, as is the idea that J’s sudden craving for chocolate milk lets Agent O know that the timeline has been fractured.

The screenplay focuses a little too on the relationship between J and K, turning the movie into something of a bromance.  This would be fine, but unfortunately, these characters don’t even feel like the same guys audiences came to love back in 1997.  Back then they were funny and cool, today they are just sappy, whiny, and kind of dull. Even Will Smith seems far removed from the super charismatic guy that was the biggest movie star in the world just a few short years ago.  Just like in the second movie, he and Tommy Lee Jones have nowhere near the chemistry that they had in the first film.  It was definitely a surprise then, and now it looks even more like it was lightning in a bottle.
Too bad the screenwriters didn’t focus more of their attention towards making the movie funny, as the few jokes that did elicit out-loud laughter were forgotten before the end credits even began to roll.

There are a few things to like in Men in Black III. It’s nice to see a science fiction movie visit a famous moment of science fact, as the movie’s final action scene takes place at the Apollo 11 launch.  Michael Stuhlbarg’s all-seeing alien Griffin is also a fun character and Josh Brolin does a spot-on Tommy Lee Jones as the younger K.

Ultimately, though, Men in Black III is just a bland movie that cannot recapture the sense of fun and wonder that made the original such a hit back in 1997.

Men in Black III is rated PG-13 for “sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content.” There are some questionable jokes and a lot of people (and aliens) get impaled by sharp objects, but there’s nothing too objectionable.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Men in Black III.