By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — MIB is no longer MIA.
The Men in Black franchise insinuated its way so completely into our collective pop-culture consciousness that we recognized its nickname as soon as it was coined.
Yet there were only two installments, and the last one was a decade ago.
Men in Black (1997) and Men in Black II (2002) were entertainingly deadpan science-fiction comedies that rested squarely on the underlying assumption that illegal aliens — the kind from outer space — were living in our midst disguised as earthlings.
Further, that there was a secret government organization committed to policing the alien population and preventing an extraterrestrial takeover.
Now comes a third surreal adventure, the quirkily inventive and eventually even moving live-action cartoon, Men in Black 3. It’s a sequel that, once the plot is revealed, is also a prequel. And once again, MIB also stands for Merriment Is Bountiful.
Welcome back, guys!
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return in MIB3 as those iconic, dark-suited, sunglasses-wearing, alien-monitoring, galaxy-defending Agents J and K, respectively.
This time Agent J must travel back in time — to 1969, the Age of Aquarius — to stop revenge-minded Boris the Animal, a one-armed, hirsute alien who has escaped from a lunar prison (played by Jemaine Clement), from assassinating Agent K, who feels he should have killed Boris rather than just maiming and jailing him as a result of their encounter at Cape Canaveral during the launch of Apollo 11.
What’s at stake could be something as momentous as an alien invasion and the dooming of the entire planet.
Josh Brolin steals the film with his rendering of Agent K as a younger incarnation in a parallel universe; Emma Thompson is Agent O, J and K’s boss; Michael Stuhlbarg is a crucial alien clairvoyant called Griffin; and Bill Hader pops up effectively as Andy Warhol (hey, it’s 1969, remember?).
Veteran comedy director Barry Sonnenfeld (MIB, MIB II, The Addams Family, Get Shorty, Wild Wild West) not only includes well staged action sequences but organizes his playful special-effects lark around the touching relationship between J and K, and even adds a dash of sentiment and nostalgia as he builds to his surprisingly poignant ending.
The script by Etan Cohen and David Koepp — based on the Malibu/Marvel comic book series “The Men in Black,” by Lowell Cunningham — trots out the overused time-travel notion but makes it work.
And Rick Baker contributes creature designs and makeup effects that remain stimulatingly amusing.
Smith, in his first star turn on the big screen in four years, fits smoothly back into one of his signature roles, and Jones gets only a modest amount of screen time. But Brolin’s visual and vocal impersonation of a younger Tommy Lee Jones, capturing the dour and tight-lipped Agent K opposite Smith’s outgoing and exuberant K, is an uncannily precise hoot.
So we’ll neuralyze 3 stars out of 4 for a droll-and-funky-is-that-a-monster-or-a-monkey sc-fi comedy threequel. Men in Black 3 mixes a martini of giggles and thrills without ever becoming alien to us.