PLOT: Agent J (Will Smith) has seen some inexplicable things in his 15 years with the Men in Black, but nothing, not even aliens, perplexes him as much as his wry, reticent partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). But when K's life and the fate of the planet are thrown into danger by vicious alien criminal Boris “The Animal” (Jermaine Clement), Agent J will have to travel back in time to put things right. J discovers that there are secrets to the universe that K never told him -- secrets that will reveal themselves as he teams up with the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save his partner, the agency, and the future of humankind.
REVIEW: Barry Sonnenfeld’s MEN IN BLACK 3 should’ve been, thanks its origin as a blatant cash-grab (Will Smith needed a comeback after the “jellyfish suicide” antics of SEVEN POUNDS and what better way to win back audiences affections than with a 3D sequel to a franchise that’s been dead for nearly a decade) follow-up to one of the most misbegotten sequels ever produced (Why, oh why, did MIB2 ditch sexy Linda Fiorentino in favor of Frank The Pug, the Worm Guys, and Puddy from SEINFELD?), an epic mess. That’s what I was expecting.
What I wasn’t expecting was for MIB 3 to transcend its dodgy origin and end up not only being a worthy successor to the first film (which, despite some pacing issues, is still a damn fine sci-fi comedy) but also one of the better movies I’ve seen this summer. That’s not a joke, people. MIB3 is good.
I think what makes MIB3 work so well is that it’s clever. Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen (with an uncredited assist from JURASSIC PARK scribe David Koepp) have smartly removed the silliness that bogged down the second film and replaced it with a greater focus on storytelling and character. Good call.
Another good call was hiring Josh Brolin to play the younger version of Tommy Lee Jones’s K. This move was a necessary one since Jones made it very clear he had no interest in returning (his expensive extended cameo seems cold at first but makes complete sense once the movie is over) but no matter. Brolin’s imitation of Jones’s speech pattern, facial expressions, and mannerisms is so spot-on and his relationship with Agent O (Alice Eve plays the younger version, Emma Thompson the older) is so sweet you’ll wish the suits had simply went the prequel route and built the entire movie around him.
But not to worry, MIB3 might not be 100% focused on Brolin but it is focused. The plot, which centers around an alien madman (played by a very good and virtually unrecognizable Jermaine Clement) traveling back in time to exact revenge on K for having taken his arm AND to kick-start a Bogladyte invasion, is surprisingly concise and to the point. There’s no silly visits to Jack Jeebs (played by Tony Shaloub in the first two pics) this time around, no useless interplay between the main villain and his/her wacky sidekick (Boris The Animal is so badass he needs no assistant), no fluff (save for maybe Bill Hader’s funny but pointless cameo as Andy Warhol).
Even Smith’s J, usually just a punchline-spewing one-dimensional hero, is given some actual depth (J and K’s bromance has now reached EPIC proportions) and a nice moment of character retcon that, while not entirely logical as far as the whole of the franchise goes, warrants this sequel’s existence. Wish I could say more but I can’t. Just know that the last act of MIB3 (which not a single frame of has been shown in any of the previews as far I can tell) is a TERMINATOR-level time travel mindful*ck that had me reevaluating everything I had just seen.
Couple all that with a winning performance from A SERIOUS MAN star Michael Stuhlbarg as an alien prophet named Griffin and some spiffy creature designs (which look AMAZING in 3D) from FX guru Rick Baker and you’ve got yourself a winner. Only real gripes I had were some plot holes (I’m still trying to figure out how exactly J would remember K if he was completely wiped from existence), Nicole Scherzinger’s non-role (she’s the only bad part of Boris’s wild pre-credit intergalactic prison break), and the lack of an memorable theme song (Pitbull’s “Back In Time” doesn’t hold a candle to Will Smith’s “Men In Black” or “Black Suits Coming”).
MEN IN BLACK 3 was way better than I was expecting. I expected an ego-driven debacle and instead found myself in the presence of an exemplary sequel that corrected all the mistakes committed by its predecessor. Color me impressed.