Movie Review: Men in Black 3

Josh Brolin and Will Smith in Men in Black 3
Josh Brolin and Will Smith in Men in Black 3 - Photo © 2011 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc
It’s been a while since audiences have seen a new Will Smith movie (you have to go back to 2008’s Seven Pounds). Sadly, the “new” movie he’s in is just Men in Black 3, a sequel I never heard anyone ask for and after seeing the final result, no one really needs to.
Now that I’ve spoiled the punch line, allow me to elaborate. In the third (and hopefully final) installment of the franchise, Agent Jay (Will Smith) must go back to 1969 to save Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) from being killed by an old enemy (Jemaine Clement) hell bent on destroying the Earth via a time travel rewrite. Over the course of the film, we’re supposed to learn why Kay is so grumpy (but this reveal makes no sense) and a completely irrelevant character tidbit about Agent Jay is even thrown in for no good measure (it’s actually significant in terms of what it would mean in real life but irrelevant in terms of how much anyone will care because of how it’s done).
Anywho, the film is also in 3D so there’s that. And if you think a few decent uses of the technique in the first 15 minutes warrants those extra few dollars (assuming you’re not taking my advice to wait for free cable to see this), then by all means throw your money away. For the more rational moviegoer, just know that after the opening segments of the film, director Barry Sonnenfeld stops employing 3D to good use and coincidentally stops worrying about making the movie any fun.
To that point, the last 90 minutes of the film are rather bland. There wasn’t any huge desire to get up and leave but had I succumbed to a nap I don’t think it would have mattered. The first two installments of the franchise had a sense of whimsy and fun that is generally lacking here. Bill Hader crops up as Andy Warhol and tries to inject some life into the proceedings but he’s only on-screen a few minutes. Of course, what many people may be wondering is how good of an impression James Brolin does as the younger Tommy Lee Jones. The answer is a damned good one. If that were the only required element to the success of the movie, I would shower it with praise. Sadly, the lazy script and generally lifeless direction overpower a good performance by Brolin.
The formula for success in these films has been the dry wit of Tommy Lee Jones vs. the exuberance of Will Smith, with a wisecracking woman mixed in (Linda Fiorentino in #1, Rosario Dawson in #2). Alice Eve is brought in as the younger version of Emma Thompson and could have filled this role, had the screenwriters bothered to remember that third element to the banter was what kept things from becoming monotonous … but they didn’t and this is the result.
Men in Black 3 is a fun excuse to have makeup & creature design guru Rick Baker do his magic but it’s nothing audiences need to see in theaters or even waste their money on in the rental market. Seriously, I’m not one of those people extolling The Avengers as the best thing since sliced bread but you’re better off seeing that a third time than watching this once. Choose wisely.
Men in Black 3 hits theaters on May 25, 2012 and is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content.