Grae's Rating:

3.5

The noisy cricket gets wicked on ya once more.

Remember the mid-'90s when aliens and one-liners from Will Smith meant big summer bucks/laughs/water cooler conversation? Those days are pretty hard to duplicate, so it's kind of a head-scratcher when a studio makes a big-budget gamble on bringing back a 15-year-old series like Men in Black, especially when the last film was nothing to write home about---in fact, it kept people from writing home so their parents wouldn't be subjected to how awful it was. But Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent J (Will Smith) have returned, and unluckily for them, a prison on the moon is no longer containing K's archenemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement). The byproduct of the MiB fighting Boris is everyone learning a little bit more about themselves and their work partners--but not in the usual lame Hollywood way. This time it's with time travel, wonderful performances, and great makeup. The Men in Black are back, baby.

Boris the Animal has spent all his time in space prison plotting to get Agent K by going back to 1969 and killing him so he could never get captured and sent to the aforementioned space prison. When he does this, J is the only one who notices that the space-time continuum has been messed with, so he finds a way to go back in time and save his partner's life. He gets to meet K as a 29-year-old hottie (Josh Brolin) who is communicative, agreeable, and only a little disapproving. Together, they ride space motorcycles and tinker with rocket ships in their stylish suits.

The first MiB was a well put-together novelty that delivered a unique story, great effects, committed performances and jokes that aged well. The second one had almost none of that--the effects were terrible and it just copied the first one, and poorly. Enough time has passed that it seems fresh again, mostly due to shockingly good performances from Jemaine Clement, Bill Hader, and Josh Brolin (seriously you guys, I'm convinced that Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones are actually the same person now). Plus, now a woman runs the MiB agency (Emma Thompson as Agent O), and all of the aliens were created with Rick Baker's usual brilliance, looking like all of our ridiculous '60s sci-fi guesstimations of extraterrestrials.

There are a few signs of age in the dialogue (I could have sworn Will Smith said "shiznit," which no one even really said back five years ago when that was supposedly a thing), and there's nothing mind-blowingly new about the formula--a big threat comes in that causes everyone to go to their living-room arsenals and get silvery space guns to fight the bad guys--but there's just enough oomph in this one that I left smiling. Plus, there's some edgy civil rights humor when J travels back to 1969 that I would have expected had I been more attuned to our country's history. But hey, at least I recognized Lady Gaga.

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