With superior sequel, filmmakers break out nebulizers to make fans forget second ‘MIB’
- Last Updated: 12:27 AM, May 23, 2012
- Posted: 12:20 AM, May 22, 2012
MEN IN BLACK 3
Party like it’s 1969. Running time: 103 minutes. Rated PG-13 (sci-fi action, suggestiveness). Opens Thursday at midnight at the Lincoln Square, the Union Square, others.
For a very belated, obscenely expensive second sequel that perhaps nobody — except accountants at drowning-in-red-ink Sony — was clamoring for, “Men in Black 3” is a reasonably crowd-pleasing and painless experience.
Sure, I might not feel so forgiving if Will Smith’s massive two-story trailer were parked on my street in Manhattan during the film’s interminable production last year.
But this only mildly bloated and convoluted action comedy has enough inspired moments to wipe out memories of the abysmal 2002 first sequel as surely as one of the black-suited heroes’ neuralyzer.
Borrowing heavily from “Back to the Future,’’ the new film finesses the second one’s biggest problem — Tommy Lee Jones’ very weary-looking Agent K — by sending Smith’s Agent J back in time to 1969, where he meets a 29-year-old version of Agent K (played, in an uncanny impersonation, by Josh Brolin).
(Never mind that Brolin, in real life, is now 44 and that in 1969, Tommy Lee Jones was 22, rooming at Harvard with Al Gore, and soon to make his film debut as Ryan O’Neal’s roommate in “Love Story”).
This time tripping becomes necessary because Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), a very evil and scary-looking alien who Agent K apprehended in 1969, has escaped from a supermax prison on the moon.
Boris himself has gone back to 1969 to kill K — before the latter destroys his arm, captures him and installs a security shield to protect Earth from an invasion from Boris’ world.
For reasons that aren’t made terribly clear, J is now the only person on Earth who doesn’t believe that K was killed in 1969 — except possibly Agent O (Emma Thompson), the new head of the Men in Black service after the off-screen demise (presumably of natural causes) of Rip Torn’s Agent Zed.
After a breathtaking leap from the Chrysler Building into 1969, J is stopped by the cops for “driving while black” and briefly taken into custody by the younger, notably less crotchety K (who amusingly carries the inevitable brick-size cellphone a decade or two before it was invented, as well as a battery belt for his outsize nebulizer).
The agents finally team up for a raid on Andy Warhol’s Factory — the movie’s best sequence — where they encounter the movie’s most delightful character, an alien named Griff (marvelously played by Michael Stuhlbarg) who can see infinite multiple versions of future events (like the Mets improbably winning the World Series).
The film’s climax takes place at Cape Canaveral (actually known as Cape Kennedy at the time), where J and K need to place the Earth-security device on Apollo 11 before it takes off for the first landing on the moon.
An attempt at pathos — even the dimmest audience member will guess the identity of a black military officer who turns up in an attempt to explain K’s grouchy future mien — doesn’t quite fly, and it seems almost perverse not to utilize the considerable comic chops of Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”).
Director Barry Sonnenfeld, back for his third “MIB,’’ keeps things moving agreeably, and Rick Baker contributes some wonderfully squirmy-looking extraterrestrials, especially for a hilarious raid on a Chinese restaurant that contains most of Jones’ perhaps 15 minutes’ worth of footage.
“Men in Black 3” at one point reveals that Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber are extraterrestrials — a throwaway joke that even the filmmakers seem to realize has whiskers after 15 years.