Third time lucky and loopy
A superior sequel breaks out the Neuralyzer to help fans forget the second MIB, writes Lou Lumenick of The New York Post
OR a very belated, obscenely expensive second sequel nobody – except accountants at Sony – was clamouring for, Men in Black 3 is a reasonably crowd-pleasing and painless experience.
Sure, you might not feel so forgiving if Will Smith’s massive two-storey trailer was parked on your street in Manhattan during the film’s interminable production last year. But this only mildly bloated and convoluted action comedy has enough inspired moments to wipe out memories of the abysmal 2002 first sequel as surely as one of the blacksuited heroes’ Neuralyzer.
Borrowing heavily from Back to the Future, the new film finesses the second one’s biggest problem – Tommy Lee Jones’ very weary-looking Agent K – by sending Smith’s Agent J back in time to 1969, where he meets a 29-year-old version of Agent K (Josh Brolin).
Brolin’s imitation is superb – even if in real life he’s 44 and in 1969 Lee Jones was 22, rooming at Harvard with Al Gore, and soon to make his film debut as Ryan O’neal’s roommate in Love Story.
The time-tripping is necessary because Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), an evil and scary-looking alien Agent K apprehended in 1969, has escaped from a supermax prison on the moon. Boris has gone back to 1969 to kill K before K destroys his arm, captures him and installs a shield to protect Earth from an invasion from Boris’ world.
For reasons that aren’t made clear, J is now the only person on Earth who doesn’t believe K was killed in 1969 – except possibly Agent O (Emma Thompson), the new head of the Men in Black service after the off-screen demise of Rip Torn’s Agent Zed.
After a breathtaking leap from the Chrysler Building into 1969, J is stopped by cops for ‘‘driving while black’’ and taken into custody by the younger K.
The agents finally team up for a raid on Andy Warhol’s Factory (the film’s best sequence) where they find an alien named Griff (marvellously played by Michael Stuhlbarg) who can see infinite, multiple versions of future events.
The film climaxes at Cape Canaveral (then known as Cape Kennedy), where J and K need to place the Earth-security device on Apollo 11 before it takes off for the first landing on the moon.
An attempt at pathos – even the dimmest audience member will guess the identity of a black military officer who turns up to try to explain K’s grouchy future mien – doesn’t quite fly and it seems almost perverse not to utilise the considerable comic chops of Clement ( Flight of the Conchords).
Director Barry Sonnenfeld keeps things moving and Rick Baker contributes some wonderfully squirmy-looking extraterrestrials, especially for a hilarious raid on a Chinese restaurant.
Men in Black 3 at one point reveals that Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber are extraterrestrials – a throwaway joke that even the filmmakers seem to realise has whiskers after 15 years.
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in the not-so-bad second sequel