I saw the original Men in Black movie so long ago that my memories of the film might as well have been zapped with a neuralyzer (that's the memory-erasing device the guys use in the movie, for those of you who are also having trouble recalling the original). What I did retain is that the film was funny, fresh, and silly and that it didn't hold up very well for the 2002 sequel. With that in mind, I had low expectations for Men in Black 3, but the newest installment is just as much fun as the original, and it actually benefits from the 15-year time lapse.
The script for the film is one of its biggest assets and truly sets Men in Black 3 apart from its predecessors. The aliens are still alive and ickier than ever now that they're in 3D, but the story is more focused on the friendship between J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) and how it has evolved over the years. We learn early on that K has been keeping a secret from J all these years, and the mystery drives a wedge between the partners. Meanwhile, a treacherous alien named Boris the Animal (played to hilarious perfection by Flight of the Conchords's Jemaine Clement) breaks out of maximum-security prison and goes back in time to get revenge on K, who arrested him back in the '60s. The day that K had Boris locked up is the key to K's secret, so J heads on a mission back in time to save K and learn the truth.
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Will Smith hasn't been in a movie since 2008's Seven Pounds, and I didn't realize I missed him until I found myself giggling all the way through Men in Black 3. His shtick is still the same (his one-liners still consist of dialogue like "Where did you come from? Planet damn?"), but you can't help but love Agent J as he bumbles through the '60s, desperately trying to sell his story to people who don't recognize him — or believe him. You can tell that Smith feels completely comfortable in the role, and in the signature suit, which still looks perfect on him, as he hasn't aged a day.
Tommy Lee Jones is ever the reliable curmudgeon, but the film mines extra laughs when J travels to the '60s and meets a much younger version of his partner, played by Josh Brolin. Brolin looks enough like Jones to pass for him, but it's really his studied delivery and mannerisms that sell the performance. We also get some insight into how K has evolved over the years (he's always had a penchant for cowboy music, but he also used to be a bit of a dreamer), giving the film an extra layer to the enjoyable banter between J and K.
I'm not usually one to gush about 3D, but the special effects really come to life in Men in Black 3 in a way they never did in the first two movies. Not only do the aliens look creepier than ever, but the cartoonish feel of the film is taken to the next level with the 3D aspect, especially with the time-travel thrill-ride element. Much like with the 3D movies from my youth, I found myself shrinking in my seat just to avoid being too close to the alien goo, blood, breath, and beyond. Combined with the welcome return of Will Smith, you've got yourself a fun, mindless blockbuster.
Photos courtesy of Sony