Will Smith as Agent J
Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K
Josh Brolin as Young Agent K
Jemaine Clement as Boris
Emma Thompson as O
Alice Eve as Young Agent O
Bill Hader as Andy Warhol
Nicole Scherzinger as Lilly
Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin
Yuri Lowenthal as Knuckles (voice)
Joseph R. Gannascoli as Mets Fan
Lenny Venito as Dom
Keone Young as Mr. Wu
Michael Chernus as Jeffrey
Geoffrey Cantor as Technician
David Pittu as Roman
Brad Abrell as Mannix (voice)
Tony Joe as Tommy Agee
Anthony J. Gallo as Lem
Francesca Tedeschi as Warhol Girl
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
After 14 years working together, “Men in Black” agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are still having problems communicating, which gets worse when J realizes he’s being kept in the dark about a ruthless alien known as Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), who has traveled back in time to destroy Arknet, the security system that protects earth from alien invaders. When K disappears into the past, J uses his own time machine to follow him back to 1969 where he teams with the younger K (Josh Brolin) to find and defeat Boris.
It seems almost too easy to dismiss a sequel in a franchise when it’s released so long after the previous installment, except there’s certainly something to be said about how the first two “Men In Black” movies epitomized the summers in which they were released while helping to build Will Smith’s cred with moviegoers. Revisiting the characters ten years later may be a fool’s errand since the nature of summer movies have changed since 2002, yet “Men in Black 3” somehow offers just the right kind of nostalgia.
An escape from a maximum security prison on the moon is our introduction to the film’s main baddie, Jemaine Clement’s Boris the Animal, who has sworn to get revenge on Agent K for shooting off his arm. After fourteen years as partners, Will Smith’s J still doesn’t completely understand Tommy Lee Jones’ K and gets mad that he’s kept his connections to Boris’ past a secret from him.
That’s pretty much the central conflict in the film and anyone who remembers the ’90s with any sort of fondness won’t need much of a refresher to get back in the “Men in Black” groove, even if Smith and director Barry Sonnenfeld seem to be way ahead of us in terms of sleeping readily back into their previous roles. Comedy really has changed so much in the last ten years and what Smith used to do so well in the ’90s and early ’00s just isn’t what’s in with audiences right now, which may be why at first, some of the humor feels dated and falls flat. On the other hand, there’s something nice about a cleaner comedy and not as raunchy as what seems to be the norm, which means this is a summer movie you can bring your kids and younger siblings to without them picking up any bad language.
Probably the most impressive thing is watching Josh Brolin embody the younger K, doing a brilliant job epitomizing the mannerisms and personality of Tommy Lee Jones, who appears in the movie less than you might expect. Another real treat is Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin, an all-knowing fifth dimensional being who helps the duo find Boris, and whose quirky personality and ability to see all different kinds of realities adds another layer of fun to the story.
Jemaine Clement is a bit one-dimensional as Boris the baddie though his performance is enhanced by some cool FX, and in fact, the creature design by Rick Baker is continually a treat, making you smile a little every time a new alien appears on screen. One disappointing omission is that of Frank, the talking pug, even though he does make a couple of background appearances, and for the most part, the “alien” cameos and Easter eggs are all handled in a fun way.
Sonnenfeld is as solid a director now as he was when he made the earlier MIB movies, knowing how to tell a story with decent beats for laughs and even some dramatic moments to give the characters more depth. The entire film looks really good and the 3D is used extremely well to bring to life all the cool gadgets and well-designed creatures we’ve come to expect, though some of the CG in the bigger action scenes doesn’t seem current with more recent movies. On the other hand, Sonnenfeld uses the New York City environment in lots of fun ways, playing with things like the ’69 Mets World Series win and the moon launch recreated convincingly enough and a fun bit involving Andy Warhol’s The Factory, which explains that scene away as the doing of aliens, which actually makes sense.
A quizzically unnecessary twist towards the end of the last act that seems shoehorned in for no apparent reason doesn’t ruin the experience, because the movie never pretends to be a time travel movie for quantum physicists or MENSA members. Even those with just a high school degree (or equivalent) might encounter a few logic issues with the film’s time travel but they probably won’t be too bothered by it.
The Bottom Line:
“Men in Black 3” is a harmless bit of summer entertainment that doesn’t require a lot of heavy thinking and should offer fans of the original enough of what they hoped for to not be considered a dud. It’s hard to tell how much of a marked improvement it may be over the previous movie, but fans of Will Smith and this era in his career should be pleasantly surprised by how easily he slips back into the suit and shades.