Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are back in black. Ten years after the last installment of director Barry Sonnenfeld's sci-fi comedy franchise, Smith and Lee return as alien-busting Agents J and K in the thoroughly fun Men in Black 3—in 3D, fittingly enough.
Audiences don't get to see too much of Smith and Jones's trademark banter, though. In this time-travel adventure, Agent J (Smith) teams up instead with a younger Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save the older K. Get ready to suspend disbelief. This far-fetched story will have science teachers nationwide shaking their heads in despair, but school's almost out, and this is the perfect lighthearted action flick to usher in the summer cinema season.
It's business as usual for Agents J and K—shooting extraterrestrials in Chinese restaurants and wiping the memories of crowds of witnesses—when K not only goes missing, but has apparently been dead for more than 40 years. Nobody remembers it other than J, who realizes the only way to restore K's existence is to journey back to 1969 and protect his partner. Can they get a step ahead of K's nemesis, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), in time to stop him from tampering with the past?
Enough alien invasion flicks have premiered this summer (most notably, The Avengers and Battleship) that we're a little paranoid. This time, the Boglodites menace Earth, and they easily win the prize for most disgusting alien invaders of the summer. Boglodite Boris is a real beast. Clement has come off as creepy in the past (such as in Flight of the Conchords), but in MLB III, alien makeup effects master Rick Baker transforms him into an impressively gruesome specimen, rippling with hideaway talons.
Fun creature design, over-the-top action and alien humor are all integral to Sonnefeld's tried-and-true formula, and they're all present in this third installment. Jones's Agent K still scowls, Smith's Agent J wisecracks as glibly as ever, and exposing funny-looking humans as aliens in disguise never gets old. Black is still in.
This latest flick remains true to its predecessors, with additional 3D fireworks, but the formula limits the movie. Screenwriter Etan Cohen of Tropic Thunder (not to be confused with Ethan Coen of the Coen brothers) diligently keeps to the pattern, cramming in jokes, fight scenes and mind-bending plot twists like there's no tomorrow. The movie walks a fine line between fast-paced and rushed, but that's arguably appropriate in a film where time is of the essence.
In its strongest moments, Men in Black 3 captures the vibe of the old James Bond films. Nicole Scherzinger embodies the super-sexy Bond girl in her brief, jiggly appearance as Boris's girlfriend. Boris himself resembles Bond's quirky enemies, down to his scary teeth and a name reminiscent of Cold War Russia. Emma Thompson—cool, crisp and utterly hilarious as MIB agency head O—recalls MI6's M.
As the younger, cheerier Agent K, however, Brolin steals the show. Remarkably deadpan and convincing, he parodies Tommy Lee Jones and pays tribute to the man simultaneously.
Additional kudos go to Michael Stuhlbarg ("Hugo") as an oddball alien who essentially experiences all possible moments in the time-space continuum, constantly fretting about what's coming next. No, it doesn't need to make sense.
Sonnenfeld's sci-fi adventure may lack originality and even logic at times, but it makes up for any shortcomings with dependable, blockbuster entertainment value. Smith, Jones and Brolin deliver great performances opposite a worthy villain, and swooping 3D effects like Agent J's jump off the Chrysler Building into 1969 (a literal time jump, get it?) make it an easy decision to shell out a few extra bucks to see the film in 3D.
Men in Black 3 hits theaters everywhere today. Check out the official movie site.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock