Right out of the gate, Men In Black 3 feels dated. Not like something out of the 1960s, which is when most of this film’s story is set, but like something out of the late 90s/early 2000s. Director Barry Sonnenfeld —- who’s had a hell of a time getting other projects off the ground in Hollywood despite helming up two incredibly successful “blockbuster” franchises (MIB and The Addams Family — just in case, like apparently most studio execs, you’d forgotten) — jumps into this thing with so much gusto that you’ll forget within minutes that it’s actually been 10 years since Will Smith’s Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K ran around chasing men from Mars (and even further afield) across the silver screen.
Oh, sure, a lot’s happened in that decade as far as the principals here are concerned — Smith’s been pretty quiet the last few years, for one thing, and Jones has aged pretty visibly and is more or less consigned to supporting roles these days (including here, given that his younger 1960s alter ego, played with impeccable precision by Josh Brolin, actually gets far more screen time than Jones’ present-day version), but it’s pretty clear that when it comes to carrying the load in big-budget brainless summer fare, neither of them has left a step — nor has Sonnenfeld, who puts his foot down on the gas immediately and never once lets up long enough to allow us to do the one thing that’s guaranteed to pulverize the credibility of any glitzy megamiilion-dollar Hollywood FX extravaganza : think.
And ya know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, there’s some sappy “bromance”-type crap shoehorned in here, and a love-interest subplot involving the Agent Ks of both the swingin’ Sixties and the present day, but that’s all fine and good too in the limited doses tha Sonnenfeld serves them up. By and large, though, to the shock of absolutely no one, this flick is all about big, flashy, lighthearted, comedic fun, and that’s something that’s sorely been lacking in the midst of all these dour summer movies this year, like Prometheus, for instance, that take themselves just sooooooo seriously.
Men In Black 3, quite clearly, doesn’t, and that’s perhaps its greatest virtue.The plot’s pretty basic time travel stuff — J goes back in time to prevent K from being killed, various hijinks ensue — but this is one of those films that isn’t so much concerned with doing anything new as it is just doing what everybody and their brother (or sister, or cousin) knows it’s there to do and doing it well. Give us a likable cast, some cool eye-candy effects, a couple little nifty quirks like Andy Warhol actually being a “Man In Black” himself, and you know what? You’ve got the recipe for a very familiar, but nonetheless pleasant, little serving of celluloid. It’s not at all filling on an intellectual, or frankly even artistic, level, but come one — does everything absolutely need to be? Sometimes you just want to go out to the movies, shut your brain off, and have a good time. If that’s the kind of mood you’re in, there’s nothing else out there this summer that will satisfy you quite like Men In Black 3.