Let's do the time warp

Let's do the time warp

1969 was a good year for Men in Black

By Tim Pompey 05/31/2012

Men in Black III
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement   
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and brief
suggestive content
1 hr., 43 mins.

By the time a movie series reaches its third set of wheels, usually most of the gas is out of the tank and the car is looking dilapidated.

Fortunately for sci-fi fans, Men in Black, dormant for 10 long years, has been given a good going over and a hi-tech polishing. As it turns out, there’s still enough fun left to move us down the highway a few more miles.

But to get there, we must go back, way back, to 1969. Back to a younger K who actually seems human. Not possible? Yeah, it is. Even better, he’s funny.

Not that he starts out that way. Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) have been working together far too long. They’re like two old Norwegian brothers stuck inside the same crummy house for the winter. They bitch, they moan, they get on each other’s nerves.

Then a particularly nasty alien called Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) breaks loose from his lunar prison and seeks revenge on the man who put him there — K.

As it turns out, Boris knows someone who can send him back to July 1969, the time when K captured Boris and thwarted his plans for an alien invasion. Boris’ plan is to kill the young K and allow his alien race to conquer the earth.

It works. K disappears and everyone at the agency thinks he died 40 years ago. Everyone, that is, except J. It’s left up to him to go back, save K, and restore the proper course of history.

When J slips back in time, here’s what he discovers. The young K (Josh Brolin) is just as stubborn and suspicious as the old K and not terribly anxious to take him on as his new old partner. Still, the fate of the world is in their hands and they’ve got a job to do. They are, after all, men in black.

You can’t recapture the primal energy of the first MIB. That genie is out of the bottle. But what Sonnenfeld and the writers have done is give the old story a brush-up, keep the action flowing and maintain the fun.

But this time around, the dynamic of MIB is a little more subdued. Sonnenfeld has toned down the comedy, written a darker script and provided an adult sensibility to J and K’s partnership.

The film picks up its sizzle with the entrance of Brolin — still as straight-faced as K, equally as deadpan, but not nearly as grizzled. He’s smooth-faced. He smiles (occasionally). He has a crush on lovely Agent O (Alice Eve). He can talk about his life’s philosophy as seen in a piece of apple pie.

Smith feeds off the young K and finds new energy in his old character. This time around, however, his wit is more physical and facial. He’s learned how to work the camera and the result is an older, wiser, yet still funny J.

In addition, there are some fun new characters to enjoy, especially Emma Thompson as Agent O and Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin, a man who sees multiple futures. Stuhlbarg is essentially a mad hatter in a stocking cap and he plays his role with a childlike gusto.

MIB III invents a clever twist to the ending and enough slimy alien humor to keep the diehards in the audience happy. And those who are baby boomers will enjoy some of the great riffs on life in the’60s, especially the pursuit of aliens at an Andy Warhol party. No surprise there.

This time around, MIB III is a little more road weary, a little more adult, but still entertaining. Not to mention all those aliens from the last decade. It’s about time these guys got back to work.

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