Friday, May 25, 2012

Pretty Standard Stuff: Men In Black 3



This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

The last Men In Black movie came out 10 years ago, which is a fact that almost made me cry when I realized it. Ten years? Wow. How did that happen?

Of course, there was absolutely nothing memorable about that second movie, so it's not surprising its very existence, no matter how long ago, kind of faded from my mind.

Men In Black III is in 3D. Let me get that out of the way up front, because it matters so little and doesn't deserve any further discussion.

Will Smith, as Agent J, looks a tad fuller; his mustache a tad patchier. Tommy Lee Jones, as Agent K, looks as craggy as he did ten years ago, which is to say, very craggy indeed.

The two are still partners, still investigating alien occurrences, and wiping the minds of witnesses. They seem kind of bored with it all, or maybe just tired. They've been at this for, they frequently remind us, fourteen years, after all.

On the moon, which is home to a space prison, (space prisons are the new big thing!), we meet a one-armed alien named Boris the Animal (played by Flight of the Conchord's Jemain Clement).

Boris is a humanoid looking alien, with goggles for eyes, spiky teeth, and a hand that shoots out pointy little aliens and daggers. Clement basically growls through the role, and for a guy who's proven himself to be pretty funny, he's surprisingly dull. (Then again, it's hard to top Vincent D'Onofrio's batshit insane portrayal of the alien in the first one. He deserved an Oscar for that.)

Boris stages a prison break, and makes his way back to Earth, determined to go back in time to 1969 and kill Agent K before K is able to sever his arm and send him off to prison.

Once things at MIB headquarters start to go weird, with no one seeming to know who Agent K is, Agent J figures it out, and heads to 1969 as well, in order to save Agent K, and in turn, the world.

So, the thing with time travel movies is, once you start to think about them, none of it makes any sense. For instance: If the goal is to prevent Boris the Animal from killing agent K back in 1969, why not just go back in time to, say, the week before he escapes from prison, kill him, and be done with the whole thing?

Oh, right. Because that would be an exceedingly boring movie, and you wouldn't get to see Josh Brolin's pretty uncanny Tommy Lee Jones impersonation. And really, he's one of the only reasons to see MIBIII. He's got Jones's speech inflections, squinty stare, and hangdog look down pat. He's a lot of fun to watch.

And I suppose the 1969 setting, which turns half of the movie in to a kind of Mad Men In Black, has its moments. The costumes and cars are fun to look at, even if the old "fish outta time" stuff isn't really anything we haven't seen before. Very recently, in fact. (See: Dark Shadows.)

Which is kind of the problem with the movie as a whole: It's pretty standard stuff. It's not totally forgettable, (like the second one), but it doesn't have any elements of surprise, or really any scenes that are truly funny, (such as that moment with the dog alien in the first one).

The are some bits that are amusing, such as Bill Hader's role as Andy Warhol. And Michael Stuhlbarg, as an alien who perceives multitudes of potential timelines simultaneously, is funny and very sweet, (I wish the movie had more of him). But mostly, it just kind of hovers there, with occasional things flung at your face to keep you awake.

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