Brolin Makes Unnecessary MIB3 Something of a Surprise
After the abysmal Men in Black II, I can’t think of anyone I know who were clamoring for the return of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Considering Columbia Pictures, producer Steven Spielberg, the two main stars and director Barry Sonnenfeld hadn’t been breaking down any doors to get a third film made over the past decade, it’s safe to assume they weren’t initially excited about the idea, either.
Yet here we are, facing the truth that a Men in Black 3 does indeed exist. Still based on the Malibu Comic by Lowell Cunningham, still directed by Sonnenfeld, still produced by Spielberg and still staring two actors who could do just about anything they wanted to if they set their hearts desired it, one has to imagine Columbia offered everyone involved a gigantic pile of cash in order to get this thing into theatres.
Sarcastic kidding aside, maybe ten years away from this franchise has done Sonnenfeld and company some good. While not essential, while certainly not a film that’s going to be remembered very long after the fact, even with all the stories of cost overruns and an unfinished script circulating during the sequel’s principal photography, Men in Black 3 is actually pretty fun. Etan Cohen’s (Tropic Thunder) script manages to fix the majority of the problems that plagued the second film, returning to the same devil-may-care yet still bizarrely grounded lunacy of the 1997 original, making the finished product far more enjoyable than it arguably has any right to be.
Granted, it should be noted there were numerous other writers (including Jurassic Park scribe David Koepp and Tower Heist impresario Jeff Nathanson) who reportedly worked on the project at one time or another, and there is something to be said about how the narrative sometimes bounces around willy-nilly, especially early on, probably because of that. Yet Cohen is the only writer given credit and as such should get the kudos for helping produce a finished product that feels so self-contained. It may bounce around some, it may not always do the best job at making complete sense, but overall the progression of the story is on solid ground, and considering we’re dealing with Star Trek-level time travel shenanigans that’s kind of saying something.
The other thing the movie has going for it? Josh Brolin. Casting him as the younger, 1969 pre-Moon launch version of Agent K was genius. Brolin is Tommy Lee Jones, becoming him to such an extent it’s close to eerie. But this isn’t a caricature or some sort of mirror-like impersonation performance piece. The actor delivers a fully-formed performance that’s funny, energetic, exciting and, most startling of all, emotionally moving. He’s not going through the motions, not just picking up a paycheck, the actor delivering in a way that kept me continually enthralled every time he was up there on the screen.
As for Smith and Jones, can I say the same? Not really, but they’re far more invested this time than they were in the disastrous second film. It helps that this time they have something to do, neither just retreading the same gags from the first flick. Sonnenfeld and Cohen actually give them something new to do, and instead of boringly following in the same missteps of the prior two chapters they go places that help make the characters more three-dimensionally interesting and worth following around on another intergalactic adventure.
As for the plot, the less said the better. Not because I worry about spoiling anything but more because much like the first film the whack-a-do nature of the comedy makes talking about the intricacies of the narrative mechanics not particularly important. Point A begins where you expect it to. Point B happens like clockwork. Point C is more or less a foregone conclusion, and none of this is anything akin to a surprise. What is shocking is just how entertaining Men in Black 3 turns out to be, and even though as sequels go it’s highly unnecessary, that didn’t make the smile on my face after watching it invisible.
Film Rating: 3 (out of 4)