MEN IN BLACK: THREE
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Reviewed by Marion D.S. Dreyfus
MIB fandom: This third installment of the alien-fighting franchise headlined by the lovable duo, slick Will Smith as Agent J, and dour Tommy Lee Jones, Agent K, still wows with jaw-dropping CGI special effects, terrific galaxy-saving home-office somewhere on Wall Street, with ever-more incidental extraterrestrials tickling the retinal funnybone—including the small-fry skinny gold instrument-playing worms we loved from the first MIB–with the clipped, understated Emma Thompson in a comedic cameo as Agent O. Her younger blonde self is played by Alice Eve. (One–<sigh>–misses Rip Torn, however.)
This time out (pun intended), hunky Josh Brolin does a head-turning rollout as the younger Tommy Lee Jones, giving a tiny bit of back-story to his usual laconic dryness. This segment installment of the enjoyable partnership presents us the ugliest villain, yet. When so many films are competing to out-ugly each other in the bad-guy department, having one this memorably alarming is an achievement of sorts. Boris the Animal is done by Jemaine Clement, who gives Hannibal Lector a run for his money in terms of hideous amorality and resentful nastiness to his captors on Earth. SNL standout Bill Hader is comfortably acceptable as a 60′s icon, unrecognizable as Bill Hader.
Boris the Animal breaks out of major security in a remote, really inhospitable Moon prison keep, and threatens to destroy the Earth as his genus or whatever have in the past destroyed every planet they have hit upon in the galaxy. Scenes take place on the Moon, NYC, Coney Island, the Chrysler Building and Chinese restaurants cum aquaria, with hugely unappetizing “foods” available for the intrepid and undiscriminating. MIB HQ is, as ever, evocative of the brilliant architectural innovations of Eero Saarinen. J must go back in time to rescue his partner, K, from Boris’ depredations.
Fewer laughs fly in this one, though the faster you are, the more likely to get the zingers that occasionally loop out at the audience–but also nothing in the way of blue language. The scripting is a lot darker, less larky than the first time our hearts went to these intrepid invader-fighters. It’s safe to bring the kids, if they can sit without fidgeting for the elimination of many alien life-forms in refreshing explosions of spectacular slimy goo.
The love (=sex) interest here is exceedingly curtailed, a throwback to pre-movie code primness. Basically, don’t go expecting erotic stuff, as there is exactly none—the plot gets its kicks from time travel back to 1969, where we can comfortably amuse ourselves at the extended makeup, Andy Warholiana, and Hippie cool of The Scene. But for the fact that it’s not really true, the residue from the film is that there is not that much difference between 45 years ago and today, except for the miniaturization of cell phones and the tamping down of hairdos. Not everyone will want to be tickled, and it is always a treat to be in the presence of Smith, Jones and Brolin.
No Afghanistans, Syrian massacres of protesters or Egyptian elections. No Occupy foolishness. No terrestrial debt-ceiling headaches. Not even any Army or Marines–our heroes manage touts seules. Metaphysical anguish, not a major theme. As deep as the investment in time. Not that attendees are going for any formula that differs from what they will get here.
The good-natured biff-bam-boom offing the bad-guys that our black-suited designated alphabetic agents preside over is less taxing than the heavier hardware of many contemporary films, which is a small triumph in itself. The credit roll, BTW, had almost everyone in the non-industry audience sitting put, hoping for a post-credit scene or outtakes: Uh-uh. One assumes then that this is the last of the series.
Still, not a bad evening at the celluloid altar.