PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

May 25, 2012

The “Men in Black” are back

Sean McBride
The Port Arthur News

— It was fifteen years ago that “Men in Black” roared into theaters, delighting audiences with an engaging mix of science fiction adventure and silly comedy. With visions of dollar signs in their eyes, producers quickly green lit a sequel. Yet for some reason, the second film was underwhelming at the box office and stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones even seemed to lose their passion for the “MiB” franchise.

So it’s a bit odd to find “Men in Black III” coming to theaters this week. As you would expect from the movie, this is another silly science fiction adventure with some fun extraterrestrial creatures and a lot of cool gadgets and over-the-top action sequences. It’s also very nice to see Will Smith back in the movies after a four year absence, but after a decade-long hiatus, the film itself seems a bit dusty. These Men in Black just don’t have the cinematic magic that they had fifteen years ago.

The outlandish plot follows two Men in Black agents, who are basically sci fi cops in charge of policing all the extraterrestrials living here on earth. Smith and Jones play agents J and K, and the story kicks into high gear when J comes to work one day and finds that K has disappeared. He’s not just gone missing — the man seems to have been erased from time.

It turns out that an vengeful alien (Jermaine Clement) has broken out of the moon’s super max prison and traveled back in time to kill the agent who put him away so many years ago. That forces Agent J to also travel back in time to try and save his future partner. Josh Brolin plays the young K and there’s a great inside joke about Tommy Lee Jones looking so old that they had to get a 44 year old actor to play him at age 29.

Brolin is amazing here, channeling Jones perfectly. He’s got the mannerisms and drawl down pat. He also brings a bit more spirit to the character, which gives the story some much-needed energy. Smith, on the other hand, doesn’t fare as well. “Men in Black III” finds Smith a little off his game. He’s still very charismatic, but he’s not at the same level as he was back in the mid-nineties.

The special effects and creature design start out strong but falter as the film progresses. The secondary characters are mostly wasted in a story that feels forced and is filled with plot holes — although to be fair, this isn’t a movie where anybody will take the story too seriously.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have re-watched the original film before the screening of “MiB III.” That was a great movie and it’s really not all that surprising to find that the sequel’s story and characters are simply not up to par with the original film. Fans of the franchise will still want to see it and Will Smith should have star power to drag audiences into theaters, but this is not one of his better performances.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@kboi2.com.