The amazing thing about "Men in Black III" is that it helps you almost completely forget about how forced and unnecessary "Men in Black II" was. Though unnecessary in its own right, "MIB III" features another ludicrous story, obvious comic relief and over-the-top action, but it also has some clever plot turns that make for an entertaining bit of throw-away sci-fi comedy. Thanks to a pitch-perfect performance from Josh Brolin as a young version of Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K and another whirlwind of interesting creatures and sets, "MIB III" ends up being much more fun than it seemed capable of being.
Ten years after the last installment, Will Smith's Agent J is now mostly running the show at MIB, the secret organization still holding the world together by taking care of the most unruly aliens they can get their hands on. These days, J is a seasoned veteran of MIB who has seen a little bit of everything by this point in his career. Or so he thought.
While everything seems to be going just fine for MIB, J shows up one day to find that his partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) has been dead for more than four decades. Even for someone who has helped save the world from countless aliens over the years, this comes as somewhat of a shock for J. Luckily for him, Agent O (Emma Thompson) figures out that there has been a rupture in the space-time continuum that allowed a particularly dangerous alien to kill off K all the way back in the 1960s. The alien, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), is another one of those evil bad guys who wouldn't hesitate to destroy the world for his own glory and payback.
With such a setup, "Men in Black III" could have been another dreary sci-fi comedy that sprinkles in CGI action sequences and blips of comic relief, but it's back in the 1960s that the movie starts to click into place. The main reason is because of Brolin, who is so good at mimicking Tommy Lee Jones as a younger version of Agent K that he slides right into the absurdity with ease. No matter how ridiculous the plot gets (and it gets just about as ridiculous as possible), the movie has a good comedic center with Smith and Brolin playing off one another, allowing us to swallow whatever plot turns the filmmakers throw at us.
After we get quickly acclimated to a new version of K, "MIB III" hurdles forward with its steady stream of time-travel comedy and explosive action sequences as J fights to save K's life - not to mention all of mankind, again. This time it involves a plan by Boris to spearhead an invasion of Earth by a fierce race of aliens, and the only way for K and J to stop it involves them infiltrating the famed Apollo 11 rocket launch to fit it with a special shield. In a way, "MIB III" often has the whimsy and leaps in logic that made "Back to the Future" so much fun, which is also a formula that can go awry quickly without characters worth investing in.
To his credit, director Barry Sonnenfeld, who helmed all three movies the series, recovers from the last installment and finds a way to sprinkle in a surprisingly touching story while getting back to the roots that made the original a smash hit back in 1997. Though "Men in Black II" seemed like little more than a series of ho-hum one-liners and trite action sequences, "MIB III" keeps the fast pace and finds a way to give the characters much more urgency; last time, it seemed like Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were just waiting around until it was time to save the world.
Sonnenfeld also gets key contributions from underrated character actor Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays MIB tag-along Griffin, as well as another brilliant set of alien designs from movie makeup legend Rick Baker. After seeing Baker talk about his creations in "Men in Black III" at the recent L.A. Times Hero Complex Film Festival, you can see why the seven-time Oscar-winner continues to be drawn to the world of "Men in Black." "MIB III" is filled with alien creations that all seem to be unique, which is difficult to do considering how many alien movies have been made over the years. Here, it's refreshing to see aliens that don't simply look like little green people running around causing trouble.
"Men in Black III" might be lost in the shuffle of a shockingly good year for big-budget action movies, but it still has plenty to offer fans who loved the original. Though it's understandable if you bailed on the franchise after the last entry, you might also be pleasantly surprised at how well the filmmakers conjure up the fun and whimsical nature that got the first "MIB" off the ground. If you know what you're getting yourself into, you might find "Men in Black III" to be much more entertaining than the previews suggest. That's still not an excuse to make a fourth one.
by RTT Staff Writer
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