in Review

Men in Black III

Time to party like it’s 1969! Though watching Men in Black III was a little more like traveling back to 1997. That was the year the first MIB movie was released and in fifteen years little has changed. So you can take that aspect as good or bad. I sit somewhere in the middle of the discussion. I like the fact that Will Smith is still essentially dispensing the same dated hip-hop slang form the 90s. All that reminds me of my youth, but it also feels dated. The Men in Black series was never edgy, but there’s definitely some jokes here that feel quite humdrum and very stock. Still it’s a mildly pleasing experience.

The story revolves around escaped alien prisoner Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) and his intent on going back in time to kill Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). K was the agent who not only arrested Boris (taking his arm in the process) but launched a protective ArcNet shield around the Earth, preventing Boris’ people from invading. Boris goes back in time to eliminate K leaving it up to Agent J (Will Smith) to travel back to 1969, save K, and stop Boris. When he does travel back in time he meets a young Agent K (Josh Brolin) and hilarity ensues.

I like the story, it’s time travel but it avoids the pitfalls of becoming overly convoluted. Additionally, some of the film’s best humor comes from J’s clash with the culture. One of my favorite jokes was J saluting back to a pair of Black Panthers. Another one of my favorite aspects was the addition of a future predicting alien named Griffin, played by Michael Stuhlbarg of A Serious Man fame. He’s an odd but likable addition with his soft-spoken demeanor and vivid predictions of potential futures. As for Boris the Animal I was somewhat disappointed. I love Jemaine Clement, but the character is underwritten with few defining character traits. Really all there is to Boris is that he shoots out bug spikes and is ill-tempered.

The big surprise of MIB III is Josh Brolin. Brolin does such a marvelous job of imitating Tommy Lee Jones that I often forgot someone else was playing the character. I don’t know if it was all that time Brolin spent with Jones on No Country for Old Men but it paid off. As for Jones he’s solid as usual. Will Smith shines in the comedy department, but also does a fine job at handling some of the more dramatic moments. Surprisingly, there’s a fairly engaging subplot in MIB III about the emotional rift that’s grown between J and K.

Did there need to be another Men in Black? Probably not, but I’m glad they could end the series on a better note than in MIB II. Overall it’s light summer entertainment. Most likely you’ll get a few laughs out of it but not much more than that. I would’ve given this movie an additional half star had Will Smith done a rap song for it.