Men in Black III

Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent J (Will Smith) have always had a prickly relationship and it seems to be especially thorny after the escape of Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) from a high-security prison on the Moon.  Boris has a score to settle as it was K who shot his arm off when he captured the alien in 1969.  K regrets he didn’t kill Boris.  When K disappears and no one at MIB headquarters knows who he is, J thinks it’s all a practical joke until new leader Agent O (Emma Thompson) figures out J’s craving for chocolate milk and persistent headache is a sign of a fracture in the space-time continuum.  Boris has retrieved a time travel device from the son of a fellow inmate and gone back to the day of his capture, killed K, altered history and prevented K from establishing an Earth defense system called Arcnet.  Now an alien invasion fleet is on its way and J must travel back in time to stop Boris before he kills his partner.  Arriving in the past, J meets the younger versions of K (Josh Brolin) and O (Alice Eve) and he and K set out to keep history from being rewritten.
 
After the lackluster “Men in Black II” from 2002, I didn’t think there was that much interest in a third installment of the adventures of Agents K and J and the various weird aliens they oversee in their lives on Earth.  The fact it took 10 years to make indicates it took a while to find the funding and to convince the lead actors to take a third trip in the dark suits and sunglasses.  I’m glad they did as “Men in Black III” is a surprisingly good summer flick; not just from an action and comedy perspective but from an emotional one as well.
 
As with the other MIB films, this one contains the expected witty banter from Will Smith and the annoyed yet deadpan reactions from Tommy Lee Jones.  There are hints of more under the surface but it isn’t until Smith arrives in the late 1960’s that the film begins to show what’s really going on.  Brolin was the perfect choice to play the young Agent K.  While he bears a slight resemblance to Jones he really manages to pull of the detached attitude and the voice as well.  There’s more personality in the younger K and that adds some much needed energy to this pairing.  The absence of that personality in the older K is explained as the film progresses.  If the pairing of Smith and Brolin didn’t work the as well as it does with Smith and Jones, then “Men in Black III” would have been a mess.  It does so it isn’t.
 
Jemaine Clement, best known for being half of the Flight of the Conchords musical comedy team with Bret McKenzie, is nearly unrecognizable as Boris the Animal under a great deal of prosthetics and padded clothing that makes him appear far more physically imposing than he really is.  His voice, modified in post-production, rumbles with menace and venom as he rattles off the catchphrase “Let’s agree to disagree” right before he kills someone.  Boris seems to be made up of multiple critters that shoot spikes from Boris’ palm.  He’s a great villain who seems unstoppable yet can be distracted by calling him “Boris the Animal” which he detests.  When present day Boris travels back in time and meets up with 1969 Boris, who still has two good arms, it seems the teaming will easily succeed.
 
The film also has another character that is extremely interesting.  Michael Stuhlbarg plays Griffin, an alien who is able to see multiple timelines simultaneously.  He is able to guide K and J in their journey to repair the timeline while providing some comic relief as he explains what might happen if things go slightly differently.  His performance reminded me a little of Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man.”  It’s a character I would have liked to see more of in the film.  He moves the plot forward, saving the main characters time by telling them certain facts they don’t have to discover on their own.  He’s also very sweet and childlike with big blue eyes and he smiles a great deal.  He’s soothing and I really liked him.
 
The film of course has big action set pieces and copious amounts of special effects like a giant alien fish that attacks J, a talking blob that sits on a stove and appears to be some kind of food, an alien whose head pops off and gets used as a bowling ball and on and on.  This all looks good and is fun to watch, but the film wouldn’t work without the chemistry between Smith and Jones/Brolin.  It also has a story that will make you pay attention and keep you wondering what the big secret is.  When it’s explained, it will break your heart a little.
 
“Men in Black III” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content.  There is plenty of fighting with and shooting at various aliens.  Anytime an alien is shot by one of the MIB agents it splatters into a gooey mess.  Boris shoots thorn-like spears from his palms that are shown sticking into various characters bodies.  The first scene of the film shows a scantily clad woman coming to visit Boris.  She’s carrying a cake that seems to jiggle as much as her partially visible breasts.  There is scattered foul language that doesn’t get much rougher than the S-word.
 
I wasn’t sure what to expect from “Men in Black III.”  After the disappointing second installment, I hoped the combination of time and regret would lead to a better effort.  It did.  If the powers that be intend on making a fourth MIB, I hope they take their time, find a good story and make a film that doesn’t make us long for the invention of the neuralizer.
 
“Men in Black III” gets five guitars out of five.
 
There’s only one new film in wide release this week so I’m going to give you some art house options in the movie poll.  Vote on the next movie I see and review.
 
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel—Some British retirees decide to outsource their retirement to exotic -- and less expensive – India at the newly restored Marigold Hotel.  Though their new home is not quite what they had imagined, the retirees find that life and love can begin again when they let go of their pasts.
 
Snow White & the Huntsman—In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
 
Sound of my Voice—Peter and Lorna, a couple and documentary filmmaking team, infiltrate a mysterious group led by an enigmatic young woman. Intent on exposing her as a charlatan and freeing the followers from her grip, Peter and Lorna start to question their objective and each other as they unravel the secrets of the cult.
 
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film currently in theatres.
 
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
 
Questions and comments can be sent to stanthemovieman@att.net.  Follow Stan on Twitter @moviemanstan.