Review: ‘Men in Black III’ proves the Prince is Still Fresh

About twenty minutes into Men in Black III, between a chuckle and a giggle, the realization hits home: We’ve had a Will Smith sized hole in our hearts.

It’s good to have him back.

Smith, whose last film was 2008’s Seven Pounds, returns to the big screen in fine form, creating a sense of easy fun that enlivens what otherwise would be just another so-so sequel.

Smith reprises his role as Agent J, an operative for the government agency that monitors and polices alien activity on earth. His longtime partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is in the line of fire when a sinister, nasty, icky alien criminal named Boris the Animal (Jermaine Clement) escapes from prison. Boris the Animal plans to settle old scores. He’s still a little touchy about Agent K shooting off his arm. But he will not content himself with hunting down Agent K in the present. He needs to go back in time and take care of him in the past.

Naturally, it falls on Agent J to go back to 1969 and rescue young Agent K (Josh Brolin) from a temporal fate worse than death.

The wacky fun in the Men in Black franchise is never just the plot, but the zany ways they play with the aliens-among-us idea. Ever wonder what’s that strange bit of meat in the unrecognizable soup of a Chinese restaurant? Aliens.

What gives a supermodel such an otherworldly look? Alien heritage.

How does Lady Gaga maintain her stratospheric level of weirdness? That one is almost too easy.

Fortunately, the late ‘60s are full of material that can only be explained by alien presence. Naturally, Agent J and young Agent K wander into Andy Warhol’s studio in New York,the famous Factory. It’s world headquarters in “the scene” of 1969, chock full of tripping beautiful people and Yoko Onos.

And aliens.

This stuff practically writes itself.

Will Smith breezes through it all, flashing his easy charm and pulling off gags that would fall flat from a lesser man. He’s still the Fresh Prince, after all these years. This is fluff, so the movie merely nods to the racial tensions and discrimination of 1969, although Smith does get off a good barb against the racial profiling known as DWB (driving while black). Those little memory erasers sure come in handy with racist cops. Other than that, no one seems to find a black man in a designer suit, sunglasses, and carrying a big gun (and later wearing a military officer’s uniform) at all unusal. Hey, it’s New York! Nothing is unusual!

Josh Brolin does a fine job playing Tommy Lee Jones playing Agent K. Tommy Lee Jones is not in the bulk of the movie, but in his bookend appearances at beginning and end, he reprises the gruff, stoic character we’ve come to love and roll our eyes at. Emma Thompson is underused as Agent K’s love interest Agent O (Get it? O. K. Okay?)

Towards the end of the film, the movie goes heavy on plot and fighting, which is never its strong point. A twist ending will either make you go “Awww” or make you go “Oh no,” depending on your tolerance for illogical time-travel storylines.

Rated PG-13, the film opens with a slightly suggestive sequence, but is clean for the rest of the time. Language is minimal. The PG-13 rating is for action sequences with cartoonish, alien violence and not particularly gory images of dead aliens, victims of Boris the Animal’s crime spree. It’s fine for teens and older kids, anyone who can handle the action.

The people and hidden aliens of earth are agreed, Hollywood.

More of Will Smith, please. A lot more.

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey


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