Movies: "Men in Black III" | Arts & Culture
The summer of sequels rolls on with “Men in Black III,” another lightweight outing with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as those ultra-secret government agents tasked with wrangling space aliens here on Earth.
This time around, Agents J (Smith) and K (Jones -- come to think of it, why didn’t they just name these spooks after their actors’ real names?) have a fierce villain to content with: Boris the Animal (roaringly played against type by Jemaine Clement of “Flight of the Conchords”), who goes back in time to kill Agent K, the agent who shot his arm off and locked him up back in 1969.
Sure enough, Agent J finds a way to head back there too, in an effort to save his future partner’s life, and finds himself partnering with the younger version of K, with Josh Brolin ably taking on the required Tommy Lee Jones mannerisms. Along their way, they encounter 60s icon Andy Warhol (another amusing parody, featuring Bill Hader of “SNL”) and a sweet, goofy alien (Michael Stuhlberg, perhaps best known as Arnold Rothstein in “Boardwalk Empire”) who can simultaneously see a variety of future outcomes to whatever situation he faces.
They also find themselves at a be-in-cum-fashion-show at Warhol’s famous factory, where some of the uncredited participants include the likes of Tim Burton, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. See if you can spot them. Screen veteran Emma Thompson also pops in as Agent O, now head of the MIB; her younger self is played by Alice Eve (Emily Hamilton in “The Raven” for the few who saw this one).
“MIB III” was scripted by Etan Cohen (no, not one the Coen brothers), and is based on the comic book by Lowell Cunningham. It was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, who made the two previous installments. The jazzy cinematography is by Bill Pope (who shot “The Matrix,” “Spider Man 3” and a personal favorite, “Best of Chris Isaak”) and the clever soundtrack was assembled by composer Danny Elfman. His closing tune, a funky take on Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love is Strange,” is terrific. A special mention goes to longtime Hollywood monster maker Rick Baker, who not only designed the aliens for this production but actually plays one (the Brain Alien).
So what’s my take on this one? While hardly as dispiriting as the second movie in the series, it’s mildly entertaining at best. The first half, consisting mostly of rehashed alien shoot-em-ups was fun in the first movie, but is basically a rehash here. The time travel, with its amusing view of the late 1960s, adds some spice to the proceedings, and the performances, particularly by Smith, Brolin and Stuhlberg, are fun to watch. But this is basically Sci-Fi Lite. I’m ready for sterner stuff with the upcoming Ridley Scott feature, “Prometheus.”
“MIB III” is rated PG-13 for cartoonish violence and some language. I give it a B-Minus.