‘Men in Black 3’ is fair summer fare

Article Published: May. 31, 2012 | Modified: Jun. 8, 2012
‘Men in Black 3’ is fair summer fare

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When it’s summertime in Hollywood, sequels are always a safe bet – for the studios.

Seldom are these sequels worth the ticket price, much less that 3-D surcharge. Mediocrity in 3-D only drives the point home – and off the screen into the audience’s collective face.

“Men in Black 3” is a slight exception, a generally fun foray with comical characters and fanciful special effects.

This sequel – 10 years apart from its predecessor – is somewhat of a return to form and a step above others of its ilk, namely because those involved are talented, funny people. Director Barry Sonnenfeld (“Get Shorty”) knows how to frame a joke (with the exception of “Wild Wild West”), and actors Tommy Lee Jones (“No Country for Old Men”) and Will Smith (“Hancock”) haven’t missed a beat.

But whereas “Men in Black 2” was basically a rehash of the first, this third chapter brings some welcome – and scene-stealing – new blood to the franchise with Josh Brolin (“True Grit”) and Jemaine Clement (HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords”).

Smith and Jones are back as Jay and Kay, respectively, agents with the top-secret Men in Black organization, sort of an extraterrestrial police force established to defend Earth from alien threats.

One such threat is goggle-eyed (literally) Boris the Animal (Clement), a malevolent beastie that has it out for Agent Kay.

In 1969, Kay apprehended Boris, who’s been plotting his revenge ever since. Forty-three years later, Boris breaks out of prison and sets his plan in motion, which results in Kay’s mysterious disappearance.

To make matters more confusing, Jay’s the only agent who remembers him, as, according to records, Kay died in 1969. It would appear that Boris has somehow traveled back in time to assassinate Kay, the ramifications of which could spell doom for the planet.

Jay follows Boris to the ’60s, where he’s promptly apprehended by the younger Kay (Brolin). After hearing Jay’s outlandish story, young Kay agrees to help him foil Boris’s scheme.

It takes some time to get going, but once “Men in Black 3” hits its light-hearted stride, fans of the series should be satisfied – especially with Brolin, whose Tommy Lee Jones impersonation is hilariously spot-on. The man even looks like him somehow.

The film shines in its 1960s setting, which seems like a cross between TV’s “Mad Men” and the “Star Wars” cantina, with aliens occupying – and somewhat explaining – the oddities of that particular decade, including Bill Hader’s (TV’s “Saturday Night Live”) hilarious take on Andy Warhol.

Clement shines as Boris the Animal, almost unrecognizable in his makeup – courtesy of visual effects guru Rick Baker (“Star Wars”) – and rivals Vincent D’Onofrio’s villain from the original film.

Sadly missing, though, is Rip Torn (HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show”) as MIB chief Zed, although Emma Thompson (“An Education”) fills in as new boss Agent O. Thompson has her moments, but, by no fault of hers, can’t fill Torn’s verbosely cantankerous shoes, which, come to think of it, doesn’t sound the least bit appealing.

More appealing, however, is Sonnenfeld’s decision not to pander to gimmicky 3-D, e.g. the kind of stuff that ruins a movie when trying to watch it at home on a regular television (see Robert Zemeckis’ “A Christmas Carol”). As far as post-production 3-D treatment goes, it’s impressive, but hardly necessary. Viewers will get just as much out of it – and save a few dollars in the process – with 2-D. Besides, Tommy Lee Jones’s glowering is intimidating enough as it is.

“Men in Black 3,” rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page ?? or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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