Sunday, June 10, 2012

Men in Black 3 (2012)

Seen: In 3D at the AMC/Loews at Boston Common.

Ok so, like basically everyone in my age group I loved the first Men in Black when I was a youngin' and thought the second one was dumb but got pretty excited for the franchise's return due primarily to the prospect of Josh Brolin as a young Agent K. Men in Black 3 re-unites Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith as K and J, respectively, agents in a top-secret organization that handles alien activity on Earth. When a powerful alien criminal named Boris (Jemaine Clement) breaks out of moon-jail and embarks on a mission to go back in time and kill K (the man who sent him to prison), J travels back to 1969 so he can retroactively save his partner. There are some jokes about the 60's. And some weird alien hijinks.

The thing about this movie is that it can't quite decide who its audience is, or even what type of film it is in itself. Is it a time travel mystery-thriller? A sci-fi action flick? A family-friendly comedy? It settles on being an unsuccessful blend of all three, but not without flashes of awesomeness. Half the humor is low-brow, unimaginative slapstick infused with CGI alien monsters, with Will Smith taking many unfunny hits for the team. But the other half is more wink-wink, nudge-nudge digs at 60's culture, including shitty racist cops (always topical!) and the ridiculous New York art scene (don't think I didn't love the Andy Warhol thing, though I hated the "all models are aliens" crack). The funniest part about the whole thing is of course Jemaine Clement, who is nigh-unrecognizable as Boris the Animal but just as silly as his Flight of the Conchords persona, especially when there's two of him. He's also kind of gross though, with, like, insect parts and extra orifices. Yeesh.

Changing its tone from scene to scene and juggling way too many ideas, Men in Black 3 shows promise with its time-travel premise but really needed a more streamlined script and less dopey action comedy. It feels like the filmmakers wanted to make something more character-based, with a little mystery and sci-fi/historical satire, but felt forced to add in the dumb action stuff and stupid jokes to appeal to kids and sensationalists. The result is an ultimately uneven affair, with parts I really liked and parts I readily dismissed, with its strengths residing primarily in some fantastic performances. I loved Josh Brolin as young K, mostly because his transformation is so magical I swear to god they digitally manipulated his face and voice. Has he always looked and sounded EXACTLY like Tommy Lee Jones? And the always incredible Michael Stuhlbarg is adorable as a refugee alien who can see all possible futures, thus experiencing crazy mixed-up series of parallel universes at any given time. Poor little guy. Emma Thompson is under-used (duh) and her character is short-changed in the 60's portion as an eyelash-fluttering ditz with big hair, so that was frustrating, especially since she's the only woman in the film besides the sexy lady in the opening. And obviously Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones do a good job, but they're both getting a little old for this shit, you know?


Pair This Movie With: I felt like revisiting the first Men in Black, just because I haven't seen it in so long.


  1. Glad to hear that you liked it as well. It's popcorn cinema, to be sure, but it's a good way to get out of the heat for a few hours and have a few laughs.

  2. Time-travel to the 60's seems so cliche. Will Smith shoulda gone back to the 70s or 80s instead.