On the first of April in 2009, Sony announced they would be producing a third Men In Black film, and I could have sworn it was all an April Fool’s joke. The other sequel they made was so dull I can’t remember anything about it, as if I’d been Neuralyzed immediately after seeing it. And now that ten years have passed since that film, is there any more magic left over from a fifeteen-year-old goofy buddy-cop comedy?
All I can say after seeing Men in Black 3 is that I feel like I might have been Neuralyzed again.
We get dropped back into action on what may be the grumpiest day in the life of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones, barely dragging his puppy dog scowl onto the screen this time). Why? Uh . . . because he knows he’s going to die?
No, see, it makes sense because a guy (Jemaine Clement) breaks out of Moon-Prison, finds out how to time travel, and then goes back to 1969 to kill K. So, yeah, K just, well, remembers dying. And then he dies.
This leaves things in the hands of Agent J (Will Smith, still bringing the black suit), who goes back in time to stop the guy from killing K so that K will be alive again in the future, but maybe less grumpy this time?
Time travel can be a can of worms for any story to open. Once you allow for the possibility of multiple timelines to exist within one storyline, you have to be super careful to make it all stick. Men In Black 3 tries very hard to keep it clear, but what comes out is just a bunch of exposition coming out of one of either Agent J, the 1969 version of Agent K (played by Josh Brolin), and some multi-dimensional alien (Michael Stuhlbarg).
Brolin, Smith and Stuhlbarg are all usually fine actors, but the material they’re given is flat and flat-out rushed – Smith is one of the most charming men on the planet, but he keeps trying to use comedy chops he just doesn’t have in this role, and Stuhlbarg’s whimsically aloof alien just plays out as a cheerfully autistic Elijah Wood. Brolin is good, but his spot-on impression of Jones is so goofy, it’s hard to pay attention to the words in any dialogue he brings to a scene.
It all brings down the two greatest assets the first Men in Black movie had – a wide sense of humor, and cool looking aliens. Both those things are in this newest installment, but the script is so busy trying to explain itself, there’s not any time to appreciate either indulgence.
It’s all worsened by an ending that attempts to bring an emotional resonance to what has been a skim action comedy. Props to the filmmakers for trying to build some oomph into a lightweight story, but the revelation at the end is completely unearned and cheap – general audiences may fall for its charm, but its complete lack of effort doesn’t suit the nature of the reveal.
Sadly, it doesn’t feel out of place from the rest of Men in Black 3. The story just never clicks, and even with a strong cast and a strong sense of humor, this thing never goes anywhere.