After extraterrestrial “Boris the Animal” escapes from an intergalactic prison, he heads back to earth to punish the MIB who put him there: Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), who is still battling rogue alien scum with his ever-chatty partner Agent J (Will Smith). Boris (played by Flight of the Conchords Jemaine Clement) has a unique plan for revenge: by heading back to 1969 and killing a Young Agent K (played by Josh Brolin), he could wipe out his greatest enemy and oversee a world takeover in the present.
Here’s all you need to know about Men in Black 3: there’s no Will Smith rap during the end credits. No, the honor has been passed onto Pitbull, whose “Back in Time” is the worst song written for a movie since Kanye West’s wretched Mission: Impossible III closer. It’s just one of many failed touches to reignite a dusty franchise. For a movie so eager to please, you’d think they’d at least give us a reprise of Smith’s hugely popular 1997 single from the first movie. The first signs that the movie doesn’t work come in the first half, which, with its jokes about Viagra and super models, feels like it’s stuck in 1997.
Smith and Jones no longer crackle as an on screen team–their timing is off and the prickly annoyance between the two of them no longer seems manufactured. Jones’ past work as an actor is impressive and extensive but he’s visibly unhappy to be here. Smith’s dialogue acts as audience commentary: he states “I’m getting too old for this” and he’s right. Later, after a shoot out in a Chinese restaurant with cringe worthy Asian stereotypes, he says “that was mean,” and he’s right.
The filmmakers seem to realize how out of sync Jones is, so they’ve replaced him for most of the movie with Brolin, who gives a winning turn though his deadpan, feature-length Jones impression is a limited performance for such a gifted actor. Like a wedding MC pushing too hard to work the room, Smith tries hard to compensate for the lackluster material, Alice Eve is wasted as a potential love interest for Brolin, and Clement and Emma Thompson (playing the new MIB head) sadly embarrass themselves.
There are moments that work, like the clever, thrilling visualization of how the film’s version of time travel works, the only scene that justifies the 3D upgrade. There’s also a funny gag involving Andy Warhol, though it will be puzzling to those who don’t know about The Factory. Even though they feel rushed, a few energetic shoot-outs and chases liven things up when the screenplay periodically stops working.
From the very beginning, we’re informed that the story is building to a big twist and, once we get there, the final reveal is quite sentimental but, the more you think about it and how we met Agent J and K in the first film, it doesn’t make any sense.
At the screenplay level, nothing comes together and a great fortune was misspent on sets, make-up, costumes, and special effects that appear on screen for less than a minute.
All the 1969 portion has to offer are lame jokes that Agent J will encounter racial discrimination; it’s as funny here as it was in Wild Wild West, Smith’s worst movie, which was made by the same director, Barry Sonnenfeld (who still hasn’t made a film as good as Get Shorty).
This corny, tired sequel offers a few ambitious ideas but is otherwise a collection of missed opportunities. The thrill is gone, but anyone who saw Men in Black II already knew that.
Men in Black 3
Rated PG13/106 Min.