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Men In Black 3—movie review

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
May 25, 2012 1:25 AM
5 Comments
  • |
Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Men In Black-680

The first follow-up to Men in Black, ten years ago, seemed to be running on empty. It was the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with sequels, whereas this one won me over completely. Why? For one thing, after a decade’s absence, I enjoyed revisiting the characters of Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) and their alternate-reality version of New York City, where the population is dotted with bizarre-looking aliens, designed by makeup whiz Rick Baker. While it’s impossible to recreate the feeling of originality that made the 1997 movie so enjoyable, screenwriter Etan Cohen and director Barry Sonnenfeld have done the next best thing: they’ve created a story that probes the relationship between Smith and Jones and plays on our fondness for the actors in these roles. (How it will play to moviegoers who are unfamiliar with the earlier film, I can’t imagine...but I think they’d eventually catch on.)

The screenplay is wickedly clever, forcing Smith to journey back in time to the year 1969 in order to undo an incident that has affected Jones ever since. In that year of the NASA moon launch Agent J meets a younger version of Agent K, played by Josh Brolin (doing an expert, and straight-faced imitation of taciturn Texan Jones) and persuades him that they have to work together to capture a feral criminal named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement). Their guide through the labyrinthine problems of dueling past-and-present realities is a nerdy time-travel savant, nicely played by Michael Stuhlbarg.

Josh Brolin, men In Black III-350

The first Men in Black pushed the envelope of visual effects, but the toolkit available to fx supervisors Ken Ralston and Jay Redd, production designer Bo Welch, and cinematographer Bill Pope has expanded exponentially since then. They, along with Sonnenfeld (himself a former cinematographer), take full advantage of this, producing eye-popping, photorealistic shots that wouldn’t have been possible even a decade ago. You want to re-create the look and feel of Cape Canaveral at the time of the space launch in 1969? No problem. You want Will Smith perched atop the Chrysler Building? Nothing to it. It’s how Sonnenfeld makes use of these settings that gives Men in Black 3 its tremendous vitality.

I even enjoyed the use of 3-D, which was executed in post-production, and looks great, with some bravura shots that are meant to be enjoyed. It’s that spirit of fun that permeates Men in Black 3 and makes it so much fun.

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5 Comments

  • Patrick M. Gouin | July 4, 2012 11:26 PMReply

    Looking for a hilarious comedy for these hot summer days, I chose this 3rd act in this series. I remember that the 1st film was rather funny and was face paced.
    But this 3rd film misses the mark completely. I think, although I’m not certain, that I heard one sole laugh during the whole screening. Not much of a comedy.
    This series is out of breath and should be retired.

  • Salty Bill | June 12, 2012 12:19 AMReply

    C'mon, Leonard, MIB 2 wasn't THAT bad!

  • NEGASCOTT II | May 30, 2012 3:10 PMReply

    As soon as I saw the trailer, i was in frickin love. Great movie and even greater review! But there is one thing i would like to say. M.I.B. also means Monkeys In Bed. ( ok.. I made that one up.) But cmon Hollywood! You know you want too...:3

  • redstache | May 26, 2012 1:39 PMReply

    Thank you for this well-balanced, and analytical review, Mr. Maltin!

  • MovieFan25 | May 26, 2012 1:39 AMReply

    You know, M.I.B. actually has a different meaning...it means "Mutual in Bed", and it's awesome...try a search for it on youtube!

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