Men In Black 3, which was released into theaters last month, is an unexpected surprise, a genuinely entertaining film that breathes some new life into an old franchise.
If you’ve seen the trailer then you pretty much know the plot of Men In Black 3. An alien war criminal named Boris (played, in wonderfully over-the-top fashion, by Jermaine Clement) escapes from imprisonment on the moon. He goes back to the year 1969 and kills the man who originally imprisoned him, Agent K. In the present day, Agent K (played, of course, by Tommy Lee Jones) vanishes from existence. The only person who remembers him is his longtime partner, Agent J (Will Smith). Agent J and Agent O (played by Emma Thompson) quickly figure out what has happened (one of the best things about Men In Black 3 is that everything happens quickly — there’s very little padding) and J is sent back to 1969 where he ends up teaming up with the young Agent K (now played by Josh Brolin). Together, J and K attempt to prevent Boris from changing history.
As I hinted at earlier, I wasn’t really expecting much from Men In Black 3. Yes, the trailer was cute and I was looking forward to seeing Josh Brolin’s impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones but otherwise, I had no reason to suspect that this film would be anything more than a somewhat disheartening collection of CGI and superstar egos.
But you know what?
Men In Black 3 isn’t half-bad.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Men In Black 3 doesn’t rewrite the rules of a familiar genre (like Cabin In The Woods). And it’s certainly not an idiosyncratic expression of one man’s personal artistic vision (like Moonrise Kingdom). No, Men In Black 3 is pure Hollywood entertainment but, at the very least, it’s a well-made example of pure Hollywood entertainment. This is the type of film that could easily have been made (and watched) on autopilot but director Barry Sonnenfeld and his talented cast have actually made the effort to make an entertaining film and they’ve succeeded.
Both Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones have reached a point where they could play their roles in their sleep (and, in other movies, that’s what they both often seem to be doing) but both of them seem to be having fun in Men in Black 3 and they’ve got such a strong chemistry that they’re enjoyable to watch. Jones even brings a sense of reality to his character’s world-weary resignation and, if Will Smith’s main talent seems to be the fact that he’s likable, he still does likeable pretty well. The new additions to the cast — Emma Thompson, Jermaine Clement, Alice Eve, and especially Michael Stuhlbarg and Bill Hader — are all fun and interesting to watch. The film, however, is truly stolen by Josh Brolin, who not only perfectly captures Tommy Lee Jones’ voice and mannerisms but also manages to hint at his sense of gravitas as well. Sonnenfeld keeps the story moving quickly and, for once, the impressive CGI is used in the service of the story as opposed to just providing an excuse for that story to exist.
As usually seems to happen with franchise films, the whole thing ends on a sentimental note and, I have to admit, it actually brought tears to my eyes.
Then again, I’ve been told that I cry at anything.
Regardless of whether my tears were honestly earned or if they were just a Pavlovian response, Men In Black 3 is an entertaining film and I’m glad I saw it.