By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Emma Thompson, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Michael Stuhlberg, and Bill Hader
I don’t know if it is the fact that as I have gotten older, years go by faster than they used to. But, it really does not seem like 15 years since the first Men in Black film came out. I think a big reason why it doesn’t seem that long is because, quite frankly, both Men in Black and its 2002 sequel, Men in Black II, didn’t make that much of an impact on me. In fact, I do not think I have revisited this franchise since both of these films were originally released. And, looking at the four names that head the cast of this one, two have been nominated for Academy Awards (Smith, Brolin) and two have won (Thompson, Jones). So, when rumblings started going on that number three was finally getting off the ground, I wondered if anyone other than Barry Sonnenfeld (director of all three films) even wanted to be there in the first place.
The answer, for at least the first 15 minutes or so, would have seemed to be no. The film starts off by not only getting the groan inducing bad jokes going (involving bugs and a strawberry cake), but also introducing us to its villain: rough, tough, and crazy Boris the Animal (Clement, from Flight of the Conchords). With the exception of being able to shoot darts from his hand, there really isn’t much to Boris except the fact that he is flat out nuts. Which, in a film like this, is really all you need for a villain. After this intro and set of events, we are reintroduced to our heroes Agent J (Smith) and Agent K (Jones). Even after 10 full years of being away from the franchise, the first few minutes with these two did not feel fresh at all. As a matter of fact, when the agents get in a gunfight in a Chinese restaurant and Smith starts throwing out lines like “he looks like he’s from Planet Damn,” I was almost headed for the doors because I was feeling as bored as Men in Black III’s stars. It wasn’t until Agent J is sent to 1969 to rescue Agent K that the film finally starts to pick up some steam.
Keen film observers know that this isn’t Spielberg’s first produced trilogy (he produced both the Back to the Future and Transformers franchises). And, I do not think it is a coincidence that Sonnenfeld finds a way to combine both of them into this, the third film of his own trilogy. Now, I will talk about the way he incorporates Transformers in a little bit. But, for now, we see Agent J jump off a really high building (which, for a guy such as myself who is deathly afraid of heights, gave me stomach knots watching this thing in 3D) and transport himself into the year 1969. I must say: I am a sucker for films that do things like this. Call it a case of the good vibes the original Back to the Future gave off, but I was into all aspects of J getting used to his new surroundings. He does things like engage in conversations with hippies and watch crying down and out baseball fans who have yet to see those 1969 Mets be ‘amazing’ and take over the playoff spot left vacant by a late season choking courtesy of the Cubs. And seeing Brolin get all of Jones’ mannerisms and facial expressions down pat was fun to see (even if Brolin is unbelievable as a character 43 years Jones’ junior, being that he is in his 40s). In fact, almost all the elements of Men in Black III not involving elements of the story were quite amusing. Especially the performance of Hader in the role of Agent AA, who also goes by the name of Andy Warhol. After all, who in those days looked more like an alien than Warhol? Brilliant. And Stuhlberg gives an off the wall performance as alien psychic Griffin, which reminded me of a very early in his career Robin Williams. Even Smith, whom I normally am not a fan of, was a delight in ’69, and it was actually easy to root for him here.
Unfortunately, after a few minutes of amusement involving these characters, we are put right back in the main storyline of the picture. Which eventually leads to a finale inspired by one history inspired aspect of last year’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Now, I don’t know why filmmakers feel the need to incorporate real life historical events into the plotlines & climaxes of their films. But, in my opinion, with the exception of X-Men: First Class, it hasn’t been pulled off very well. And, here, we once again see the Apollo 11 launch factor into things, only this time it’s in the last third (as opposed to Transformers: DOTM, which was the first third). To me, unless it is used properly, this type of writing takes me right out of the film itself and instead exposes its laziness in storytelling. In the end, Men in Black III was really a case of peaks & valleys. And, while there were certainly some high peaks involving some of the effects & funny situations brought on hand, the lazy plodding and badly pulled off gags (a mobster/alien bowling alley manager?!) made this a tougher sit through than most. However, the price of a matinee ticket might be worth it just to spot all the cameos on display here (some expected, most not).
3 out of 5