Men in Black Trilogy Review

mibMen in Black

Your Men in Black enjoyment level will rely upon your definition of ‘fun’.

If it is ‘fun’ for you to watch Will Smith playing a hip and streetwise cop that is in reality as edgy and gritty as Anne Hathaway, then you’ll find much to like here.

If it is fun – or funny – that a small dog is in fact an alien with the power of speech, then come get some.

And finally if it is fun that a film which has neither a plot or jokes, a film that relies on Smith’s carefully manufactured charisma and Tommy Lee Jones’ credibility, then by all means let the fun start. But don’t for a second try to tell me that this is good stuff.

Tommy Lee Jones plays K, a hardened and experienced government agent policing alien life forms on our planet. You see aliens are everywhere, some look like dogs, some like Mexicans, some even look like aliens.

The Men in Black (MiB – I keeps it real) know this and keep tabs on the more ornery aliens, and essentially stop aliens and the public from being formerly introduced, even though they already mingle among us. And if they do the MiB simply erase all recent memory with a device that emits bright light (something director Barry Sonnenfeld must have used on Hollywood moguls after Wild, Wild, West).

K is dry and diligent. This is his job and he takes it seriously. But he needs a new partner, someone sassy, someone irreverent, someone a little dangerous but not really.

A real Will Smith type.

The plot is embarrassingly simple; an ‘illegal’ alien arrives on Earth on a non-sanctioned visit, looking for an item that will change the course of an intergalactic war. The alien adopts human form, wearing the ill fitting skin of an unfortunate farmer, and while his attempts to blend in to society are laughably obvious and clumsy, Vincent D’Onofrio’s efforts are still the best moments in this blockbuster for the easily pleased.

And once J (Smith) is rocking the black suit, he and K are on the trail, and hilarity most assuredly does not ensue.

Rip Torn is Z, the boss of MiB, and Linda Fiorentino pops up as a mortician who somehow manages to find herself involved in proceedings, but for some reason never recalls how.

The jokes are flimsy and lazy; a talking dog, a small gun that fires big bullets, famous people are in fact aliens!

Every Will Smith joke is accompanied by the twinkle in his eye and the look that says ‘funny right?’, only it’s like your mum trying to use street slang. The first time it was unexpected and amusing, the 7th time it’s tired and plain sad.

Will Smith is way past the 7th time. And no one seems to notice.

Nonetheless he keeps on mugging and Jones stands stoically beside him, mentally calculating his fee and waiting for the tall talkative, confusing black man to shut up so he can deliver his line and be done with the scene.

It’s sad that for many people Men in Black represents the highlight of Will Smith’s career. It’s sad for Will Smith that I struggle to come up with something better. It’s saddest of all that neither Barry Sonnenfeld nor Will Smith feel the need to do better than this childish nonsense.

Final Rating – 6 / 10. If, as I expect, this is the ‘best’ in the series, then I am in for a long series.

mib2Men in Black 2

5 years.

That’s apparently how long it takes for the movie-going public to forget. Either that or the very real possibility that they crave the familiarity and warmth of cinematic manure like this.

Whatever the answer, the fact is that a mere 5 years after the unforgivable blockbuster sized blandness that was Men in Black turned the less discerning ticket buyers upside down and shook their hard earned money from their trusting pockets to the tune of almost 300 MILLION dollars, here comes another one.

Ready or not.

I sure wasn’t ready, and looking at the so-called ‘finished product’ on display here, neither was anyone involved in this atrocity.

An alien craft arrives and immediately adopts the form of a lingerie wearing Lara Flynn Boyle based upon a picture from a discarded magazine it happened across (must have been ‘Non-Eater’s monthly’). I guess it’s fortunate it wasn’t Oprah’s mag.

A few years have passed and J is now the top dog – though he would call it the Top Dawggg. And he’d probably dance awkwardly, smile a lot and add some wiki-wiki-waaas – but thanks to his high standards (irony!) and the challenges of the job he is yet to find a suitable replacement for K. Awww J is lonely…

The plot point of convenience is that Alien-Flynn-Boyle (and idiot sidekick Johnny Knoxville) are seeking information that only K has, but as K has had his memory wiped and taken on a real job, extracting the info might not be easy.

Neither is watching this tripe.

J finds K and the two set off to try to find both the information and what it means.

A sure sign that this film just isn’t trying arrives when Frank, the talking pug from one scene in MiB 1, pops up to bark the first of 137 ‘sassy-dog-related’ puns. The lowest common denominator must be just thrilled. While Frank sings, cracks wise and even throws in a ‘Who let the dogs out?’ reference, he still manages to avoid being the most reprehensible thing in this film. Though to be fair it’s not through a lack of trying, but an avalanche of bad ideas is just too much mediocrity for one small alien-canine-government-agent to overcome.

Try Michael Jackson in an awful cameo, an emergency exit that is actually a giant toilet, an alien with balls on its chin… neuralyze me now please.

Oh and once the talking dog is mercifully offscreen no doubt scratching itself and licking inappropriate areas, cue the sassy worm aliens from the first film.

Barry Sonnenfeld might be the worst director ever. Not only does he take every easy ‘joke’ under the sun, but he has no idea how to utilise a female character as any more than a love interest or sex object. In Wild, Wild West it was Salma, in MiB 1 it was Linda Fiorentino, here it is both Lara Flynn Boyle in her kid’s department undies and Rosario Dawson as a pizza shop employee who only shows up when it’s time for Will Smith to start tripping over his tongue in the name of love.

Speaking of Will. He is more confident of his Leading Man status this time around, not that we have need to be especially thankful for this, given that it only leads to a few more ‘black jokes’ and painfully forced ‘street slang’.

Nah mean?

My last surviving brain cell died when I saw that the spacecraft joystick was in fact a silver PS2 controller. I should have been surprised it lasted that long, I didn’t have that many to start with and this film is so aggressively bad that full temporary mental paralysis for the 80 minute running time (come on, 7 minutes of credits!) is the only logical option the human brain has to stop total shutdown.

By the way, this film made another 200 million, a fact that I found just below the imdb ‘People who liked this film also like’ section, which should include;

  •         opening cupboard doors into their own face
  •         visiting the dentist for unscheduled drilling
  •         chewing on insect larvae
  •         the comedy stylings of Marilyn Manson

Men in Black might actually be a decent franchise with infinite possibilities from both comedic and action perspectives, I am positive that those hands do not belong to Mssrs Smith and Sonnenfeld. I loathe the work of Barry Sonnenfeld with good reason, but thanks to a constant stream of crap like this and decades of never being called out for his laziness, Will Smith might be the most likable person that I will ever hate.

Final Rating – 4.5 / 10. Fails at every level. Then invents new things to suck at.

200 Million. Consider that the three films I felt were the best of 2012, Looper, The Raid: Redemption and The Adventures of Tintin couldn’t crack that combined.

mib3Men in Black 3

It took well over a decade and two turgid affairs for the Sonnenfeld/Smith combo to make a competent – almost decent – Men in Black film, one with an actual plot, where the characters matter and service the storyline instead of merely popping up in unnecessary cameos.

Of course by now the credibility horse has long since bolted, and while this is far and away the best MiB edition it still isn’t much chop when compared against anything else but the first couple films in the most unfairly profitable trilogy this side of Transformers.

In 1969 – well before he met J (Will Smith) – K (Tommy Lee Jones) took down Boris ‘The Animal’ (Jemaine Clement), an extremely dangerous alien, taking his arm in the process. This now one armed menace – who looks just like a character from Battlefield Earth – is confined in a top secret, top security prison on the moon, where he has remained for over four decades.

That situation changes prior to the opening credits.

Newly freed Boris decides he must have his retro revenge, so he time travels back to 1969 to kill K before K can sentence him to a lifetime of imprisonment.

When this indeed occurs only J seems to realise, though he cannot convince anyone at MiB headquarters that anything is wrong because as far as they are concerned, K died in 1969.

With a new chief (Zed’s dead baby. Zed’s dead.) named O (Emma Thompson), a dignified and credible actor who unfortunately takes all of 14 seconds screentime to debase herself here, J implores her to send him back to reverse the reversal of history so that the stuff that was changed is back to normal…

…or something like that. At least it’s good to see an MiB plot that wasn’t written on the back of a Will Smith CD.

Much of the action takes place in 1969, with Josh Brolin playing the young K and Alice Eve playing the young version of O (Emma Thompson wishes!).

Here in the past J must first convince K of his credibility and stress the importance of the mission without letting slip that K’s very existence is in danger, with not one but two Boris’ running around trying to wreak havoc.

The computer generated effects have thankfully caught up with the rest of the industry, a welcome improvement from the effort in the second film, and the supporting cast is also a distinct step up from the Michael Jackson and talking dogs of the past (though the worms still show up), with Will Arnett (whose character answers my question of what happens when MiB has more than 26 letters… um, staff members), Jemaine Clement and Bill Hader enhancing the scenes in which they appear.

This is a good thing, because Tommy Lee Jones has never looked older and saggier, his puffy round face now has him looking like Robin Williams. The same can be said for Will Smith, whose ‘street slang’ contrasts with his look, which comes across as more accountant than genre hopping entertainer.

The film is still hardly dangerous stuff. They touch ever so lightly on the difference between race relations in 1969 vs today, and the lead characters each get a turn at acting in scenes where they must show emotion, but even though it is streets ahead of both predecessors Men in Black 3 is still a kiddie flick at heart.

Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. This film is so nearly competent that I even had to think of what I pass off as jokes for this review, where the previous two films were so bad and hamfisted they practically handed the zingers to me.

 

"What gives you the right to look down on us?"

“What gives you the right to look down on us?”

Trilogy Review – 5 / 10. The Men in Black series proves more than anything the amazing and inexplicable pulling power that Will Smith has. The films are lazy, the director is terrible, the jokes obvious at best and puerile at normal… worst.

Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t care and doesn’t even try to pretend that he doesn’t, and trying to pluck a highlight from the series is like trying to remember the most enjoyable piece of toast you ever had.

Yet for all his carefully calculated conservative ways, for every totally uncontroversial race related comment and every bland mainstream pleasing, deliberately non-threatening ‘sassy’ remark, Will Smith keeps racking up box office hits.

It doesn’t matter that they are forgotten by the end of the car ride home, or that no-one above 14 ever watches them again. It doesn’t even matter if they are critically panned, Will Smith makes bad, dull, profitable films, smiling all the way to the bank.

I don’t know how. I just know I don’t like it.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine.

I don’t expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don’t be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong… and hopefully if you think I got it right for once.

Don’t be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.

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