Men in Black 3 | Movie review
The creaky MIB series does a time warp to reclaim its mojo.
The Men in Black franchise has been dormant for long enough now—a full decade, to be precise—that each ticket to this belated third installment should come with its own de-neuralizer. Stare at the tip, wait for the flash and it’ll all come back to you: the squishy, incognito alien attractions; the mission HQ that looks like a cross between the Star Wars cantina and an Apple store; and the antagonistic rapport between wiseass rookie J (Will Smith) and straitlaced veteran K (Tommy Lee Jones). That last element—a deadpan riff on the usual mismatched-partner routine—is perhaps the most crucial component of the original film’s appeal. Judging from the DOA first act of this new adventure, it’s also a difficult dynamic to replicate. Smith is now a little too old to play the upstart prankster, and Jones is apparently too bored to even play along.
What’s kind of endearing about Men in Black 3, a sequel both unnecessary and inoffensive, is the way Barry Sonnenfeld attempts to re-spark the series’s buddy-cop chemistry through the loopy sci-fi machinations of time travel. Using a device that’s basically a handheld flux capacitor, Agent J nosedives into the 1960s to thwart an assassination attempt. Here he teams up with a younger, livelier Agent K (Josh Brolin, doing an uncanny impersonation of his No Country for Old Men costar). The movie turns out to be more lightly amusing than uproarious, with obvious gags about Andy Warhol and a villain (Jemaine Clement, from Flight of the Conchords) who’s never as funny or menacing as you wish he were. Yet whenever Smith and Brolin josh around for old-new times’ sake, MIB3 gains a spark of…well, not nostalgia exactly, but some skewed, alternate-universe version of nostalgia. If nothing else, the film zaps any lingering bad memories of Men in Black 2.