Review: MEN IN BLACK III

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)

We have ourselves a trilogy. Unfortunately, though, not one that really pays off. I truly enjoyed the first Men in Black movie.  It takes an inventive and imaginative notion and just runs with it so well, effectively utilizing dead-pan and tongue-in-cheek humor.  The second installment tries too hard to top the jokes and gags of the first one and disappointingly does not succeed.  The film has a few golden comic moments, but has a story that really goes nowhere. So here we are with the third and hopefully final installment which jumps on the 3D bandwagon and brings some new talent to the cast in the form of Josh Brolin.  Sadly, though, this half-hearted attempt at a third chapter blandly lacks the terrific humor of the first two, despite the potential of the story premise.

An alien criminal named Boris (Jemaine Clement) escapes from a maximum security prison and attempts change the past so that his alien race may attack and conquer the earth.  In 1969, a young Agent K (Josh Brolin) captures Boris at Cape Canaveral and sets up a protective shield for the earth which would ward off any alien attack.  In the present, Boris goes back in time just prior to his capture and changes history.  When Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) disappears, J (Will Smith) goes back in time just prior to Boris’ arrival to warn the young K and thwart Boris’ evil plot. 

While not brilliantly original, I really liked the story premise and gleefully wanted to see Brolin as the young Agent K.  One of the few things I really love about this film is Brolin’s performance that perfectly nails the speech and mannerisms of Tommy Lee Jones.  Written by Etan Cohen, David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson and Michael Soccio, and once again directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, part 3 lacks so much of what made the first one so great.  The jokes just aren’t here.  Seriously, most of the attempts at humor play out so flatly.  The movie has its moments, but not enough.  While Men in Black II has too many jokes and gags and no story, this one has a story, but is so tiresome and dull in its delivery.  Even the veteran actors Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (who barely appears in this one) look bored and disinterested in this project. 

Smith appears as if he were forced to do this movie.  He lacks the charisma, charm, and comic timing he brought to the first two installments.  Jones probably had it much easier this time allowing Brolin to take over for most of the film.  Brolin, here, does more with the K character than Jones has ever done.  Jemaine Clement gratingly overacts and wears out his welcome.  I really had little fun watching his turn as the villainous Boris.  The shining star of the film has to be Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) as Griffin, an alien who plays a major role assisting J and K.  I won’t spoil the part he plays, but really is the only true revelation of the movie—an unexpected and most welcome one at that. 

I watched the movie at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar in 3D and I feel that because the filmmakers didn’t shoot it in the proper format and converted it post-production, there really is no need to spend the extra money to watch it this way.  Post-conversion 3D really fails to utilize the format to its fullest.  I thought that since Men in Black movies have been known for their alien splatters and cartoonish gore that the format would have been perfect had Sonnenfeld and his crew shot the movie using 3D cameras.  Just like the half-hearted writing and acting (save Brolin and Stuhlbarg), the direction and production of this potentially great third installment tanks due to inexcusable lazy filmmaking.  Obviously, I think this one should be saved for a rental.

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