MEN IN BLACK 3 REVIEW (GRADE: B)
Once again, a vile extraterrestrial threatens to destroy Earth and once again it’s up to Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) to save the day. Thankfully, the 16 year-old franchise stays fresh in its third outing by cleverly taking audiences back in time to Neil Armstrong’s moon landing and by injecting some new blood into the cast. Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, Nanny McPhee) brings class and unexpected silliness as the new boss, Michael Stulbarg (Hugo) offers a wholesome innocence as a charming and gifted alien, and Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) gets to cut loose as the over-the-top villain. Above all, highest praise must go to Josh Brolin (True Grit), who plays a much-younger Tommy Lee Jones in 1969, for not only doing a pitch-perfect impersonation of the older actor, but for fleshing him out as a humorous and heartfelt character instead of becoming a one-note imitaton.
The time-travel element, including a detailed recreation of Nixon-era America, shakes things up and allows Smith to drop his ever-present confidence in favor of a fish-out-of-water awkwardness that suits him well. Though Danny Elfman’s score is disappointingly under-cooked, the plot falls apart if one thinks about it too much, and the film isn’t as original or laugh-out-loud funny as the first film, there’s still plenty of solid one-liners and sight gags to enjoy. Smith and Jones (as well as Smith and Brolin) have terrific buddy-chemistry. Rick Baker’s design of the numerous creatures remains as clever and imaginative as ever. Screenwriter Etan Coen even inserts some surprisingly moving pathos into the script, giving the comedy and action an emotional center that helps the franchise to rebound from its dismal second outing. By examining the nature of loyalty and friendship through the groovy lens of the 60’s, this ends up being a successfully entertaining mission for these very secret agents.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Men in Black 3 is rated PG-13. It has some moderate profanity (mostly towards the beginning). A woman in a short skirt and a low-cut blouse is french-kissed by a hideous alien in a disturbing bit of visual comedy. There’s a couple of vulgar phrases. Aliens explode into goo when shot. A villain (whose appearance may frighten children) dispatches of victims by stabbing them with tiny bone-like shards from his own body.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: No secret can be kept forever, so honesty is the best course of action. Racism is repugnant.