The original “Men in Black” was a proper example of how to make a special effects comedy. With a knowing sense of humor, smartly written characters, and creatures that were gross, creepy, and funny all at once, “Men in Black” solidified itself as the “Ghostbusters” of the 1990s. “Men in Black II” had its moments. Much like “Ghostbusters II” though, that sequel basically just repeated its predecessor. “Men in Black III” is a fortunate return to form for this franchise mainly thanks to its inventive time travel plot. If “Ghostbusters III” ever gets made, one can only hope it’s as much fun as “Men in Black III.”
It’s been about ten years since we last saw Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as J and K. They’re still agents that work side by side for the MIB, a secret organization that specializes in extraterrestrial life forms. The alien villain this time around is the insect-like Boris the Animal, played by Jemaine Clement in the most unrecognizable performance since Johnny Depp in “21 Jump Street.” Boris breaks out of a prison on the moon and returns to earth with a grudge against Agent K, who shot off his arm about forty years ago. Now Boris plans on traveling back in time and killing K to prevent his downfall.
The plan succeeds and the present K is erased from existence, making leeway for Boris to take over the world. It is up to Agent J to also travel back in time and stop the future Boris from killing K. In the film’s funniest action sequence, J literally makes a time jump by plummeting from a skyscraper with his timepiece. J soon finds himself in 1969 where he meets a young Agent K, played by Josh Brolin.
“Men in Black III” could have created a younger Tom Lee Jones using the aging visual effects represented in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Tron: Legacy.” But the role works just as well in the hands of Brolin, who fashions a spot-on Agent K. He is perfectly cast as the stoned face secret agent who accepts any bizarre case that crosses him. K doesn’t even need much convincing when J tells him that he’s from the future. It’s just another day at the office for him. Smith and Brolin have a great rapport, which provides the film’s solid backbone.
J and K clash into a number of bizarre aliens during their travels, such as Bill Hader as Andy Warhol. Yeah, it turns out that he was an MIB agent and his life as a mediocre artist was a cover. The most amusing creature of the bunch is Michael Stuhlbarg as an alien that can see into the future. The problem is that he sees multiple possible futures and cannot decipher which one will happen. This leads to some very cleverly written sequences.
The one character who’s kind of a disappointment is Emma Thompson as Agent O, the new head of the MIB who once had a fling with Agent K back in the day. O and K have a couple of nice scenes together. But their relationship just kind of sits there on the shelf and doesn’t have much of a payoff. The attempt to deal with Agent K’s past love life is an interesting idea. Compared to a time traveling romance like Doc Brown and Clara from “Back to the Future III” though, you never really care if they’ll work matters out. The real love story in “Men in Black III” is the unlikely bro bond between J and K, which is a ton of fun no matter which timeframe.
“Men in Black III” isn’t as good as the original. Director Barry Sonnenfeld does manage to improve upon “Men in Black II” though, giving us more weird aliens, laughs, creativity, and even an inspired twist that brings the trilogy full circle. The only thing that might have made the film better is Frank the pug, who is absent this time around. There is a moment in the film that suggests that Frank has moved on to doggy heaven…or alien dog heaven. Wherever you are Frank the pug, you’re sorely missed and I hope to see you again someday.
Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org