FROM THE DEN — It was impossible not to approach “Men in Black 3” without a certain bias.
Although I enjoyed the series’ first two films (with the first being markedly stronger than the second), neither blew me away. Both films played like glorified, sci-fi, digital-cartoon adventures blended with live action, and both happened to feature two of Hollywood’s biggest stars in Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.
With Director Barry Sonnenfeld returning for “MIB 3,” as well as Smith (Agent J) and Jones (Agent K), I suspected that the series’ third entry would be more of the same — not a bad thing, but certainly not an artistic revelation, nor reason to recommend viewers trip over their feet rushing to rent the DVD.
I knew, too, going in, that “MIB 3” features a time-travel story wherein Agent J is sent back to 1969 to prevent his partner from being murdered in the past by a vengeful, creepy alien named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement).
Back in 1969, K prevented Boris from unleashing an alien attack upon the Earth. In the process, K also cut off Boris’ arm, leading to the Animal’s arrest and imprisonment.
If Boris succeeds, K will never have existed beyond 1969, making it impossible for J and K to ever meet. To boot, K’s death will also leave Earth wide open to alien invasion.
Indeed, early in the film, Boris succeeds in killing 1969 K, leaving J the only MIB agent in the present to remember K’s existence. That’s lucky for K, MIB and the Earth, as J travels back through time to save the day.
Will Smith is as charming as ever here. His chemistry with Jones is as “Odd Couple” compelling and watchable as ever (is there ANYONE with whom Smith doesn’t have chemistry?), too.
“MIB’s” true scene-stealer, though, is Josh Brolin, playing 1969 K. It’s tempting to characterize Brolin’s performance as a “revelation,” but that wouldn’t be the case. Anyone who’s seen his outstanding channeling of Former President George W. Bush in 2008’s “W” won’t be surprised to see him do the same with Jones in this film.
“MIB 3” offers plenty to laugh at, and Brolin’s presence ups the payoff in that department compared to the first two films.
Some might call it sacrilege, but I found the chemistry between Smith and Brolin even more entertaining and amusing than between Smith and Jones.
At times, Brolin seems to be aping not only at Jones’ character, but also Jones himself. Smith seems to be in on the joke, too, making their banter and interplay all the more fun.
Of course, “MIB 3” also includes plenty of digitally-animated space creatures and other, assorted CGI magic upon which to feast the senses.
So did “MIB 3” manage to surprise me? Does it transcend the first two films?
Not really. In the end, it’s about as weighty and topical as an episode of Paris Hilton’s next reality TV show. But this film IS fun and, as a bonus, it’s fairly family friendly, lending it a cross-generational appeal many big Hollywood releases lack.
It’s certainly worth the price of a rental.
Runtime: 106 minutes
Rated PG-13 for cartoonish, sci-fi/fantasy violence and gore, some of which could be disturbing to young pups.
Rating System Explained: Rabies = 0; Yip = *; Bark = **; Howl = ***; Lone-wolf howl = ****; Leader of the pack = *****
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.