Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Men in Black III

Maybe they just needed to go back in time after all.  Men in Black III is a loose and mostly agreeable chapter in the unnecessary summer sequel hall of chambers, and serves as a brisk lesson on the right way to proceed on a movie series long ago felt dormant.  The action begins as an aggressive alien named Boris the Animal (played with hammy brio by Flight of the Conchords Jermaine Clement), a baddie that Ray-Ban wearing g-man Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) caught and imprisoned back in 1969, breaks of his intergalactic prison, goes back in time and defeats his foe, causing a ripple in the time-space continuum, and a fear for Earth as a whole.  Agent J (Will Smith) must travel back in time, save his partner and the world, while meeting all kinds of new strangeness in the different world of the late-1960s.  What sounds like pure desperate gimmickry, actually saves the Men in Black series, not just from the diminishing returns from the sequel released ten years ago, but from franchise filmmaking getting back its popcorn roots and craving to entertain its audience.

Something seems different right from the start; there's something about the rapport between a more with it Jones and Smith that feels sharper, funnier and more in control.  There's a sense they both want to be here, not just the usual coasting for a lofty paycheck sort of deal.  Jones' Agent K seems even crustier; Smith's Agent J ever more blathering from the mouth-- I intend both as compliments, as the relationship between the two neutralizing alien crushes grows stronger, and surprisingly more poignant towards the films finish.  Director Barry Sonnenfeld (who directed the two first films) and screenwriter Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder) do exactly what should be done for franchises long in the tooth-- they keep the pacing brisk, the timing sharp and hold the chemistry of their actors above the onslaught of visual effects.  Bonus points for bringing along Emma Thompson, as MiB's chief, Agent O as her wondrous comedic timing, along for the ride.  Even more bonus points for making a seemingly desperate plot contrivance the prick the series needed.

For once Agent J is back in 1969 (the moon landing plays a part in the story), there's a fresher angle in store than first thought.  The first grand notion was the introduction of younger Agent K played by Josh Brolin, in a delightful performance that not only greatly mimes Jones, but opens the character...albeit softly.  Agent K, it appears, was always a bit stodgy, but Brolin is granted to free the character and the film applies a nicely balanced before and after that informs the character and his relationship with Agent J.  That's hardly the point-- this is popcorn candy summertime fun, and the film does a good job of handling the mixed bag of comedy and science fiction in a way that harkens back to the glory days of Ghostbusters-- there's a nice nod to the counterculture as Agent J walks into Andy Warhol's Factory not knowing exactly who the aliens and humans are; an even niftier turn in a stalwart cameo by Bill Hader.  There's an even sweeter addition in the character of Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), a soothsayer who can predict the outcome to millions of possibilities of the future.  His gift, or curse, gives slight weight, but mostly adventure as Men in Black III heads to his Cape Canaveral finale.

Whatever the case may be-- low expectations jelled by a sprightly script and engaging interplay of actors, or Men in Black III caught me on a good day-- I enjoyed the outing, and maybe, just maybe there's still another adventure left for them.  B

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...