Men in Black 3
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson
Review: 2.5 stars (of five)
Men in Black 3 doesn’t try hard enough.
The latest entry in the series, 10 years after the first, has three things going for it: The energy of Will Smith, the dynamic between him and a sad-sack Tommy Lee Jones, and Josh Brolin’s dead-on Jones impression as the younger version of Smith’s partner. These light, fun elements bubble around in a plot with a creepy but under-defined villain (reminiscent of the way JJ Abrams’ Star Trek underserved its bad guy), an emotional quest that’s never adequately fulfilled, and a sloppy layering of some backstory for Will Smith’s character that’s also poorly executed.
The fun of the movie, and the tension of the story, hangs on character relationships. Ostensibly, Smith is going back in time to undo a change in history: The bad guy has gone back to 1969 and murdered the younger Tommy Lee Jones. Which means that in present day, the Earth is facing annihilation. But the whole time Smith is working on this problem, he’s trying to figure out why the younger version of Jones (Brolin) is so much nicer than the emotionless, deadpan older version. It’s a question that’s never answered with enough oomph, just as a dangled subplot about an affair between Brolin and a colleague (Emma Thompson in present day) isn’t dealt with. Smith is briefly saddled with father issues, only to pay off poorly later in the film. There’s a lot here for the filmmakers to work with, but they’re just not trying.
When you come out of the theater, you’ll have had a good enough time, but nothing will stick with you. It’s the kind of experience that makes you wonder whether the original was really all that good, or do we just remember it more fondly with time.
In a summer crowded with ambitious popcorn movies, this one’s just not trying hard enough. See it on DVD.