Friday, May 25, 2012

Men in Black III

Well that was... in 3D. I wonder how many film series will find themselves resurrected for the soul purpose of cashing-in on Hollywood's latest love affair with 3D. If Men in Black III is any indication (a franchise that died a decade ago only to have it's undead corpse dug up and trotted out to make a few dollars at the box office) perhaps movie studios may want to be a little more selective in choosing which movie series to resurrect.

Men in Black III isn't a bad film. It has some enjoyable moments (like Bill Hader's cameo as Andy Warhol) and some nice performances. Hell, Josh Brolin playing a younger version of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones's character) is almost worth the price of admission by itself. Almost.

However, the story is stuck in neutral with a generic time travel adventure involving a grizzled alien (Jemaine Clement) out for revenge. Much like Tommy Lee Jones (who only appears on-screen in a limited role this time around), the film simply feels tired and only vaguely aware of what's going on.

Now I'll admit I've never been the biggest fan of the franchise based on the Malibu comic series. Although I mildly enjoyed the first film, the sequel was entirely forgettable, and I've never found a reason to revisit either movie. Those who enjoyed the first two films more than I did may be more interested in older versions of the characters doing basically the same thing one more time. If you are in that group, you may be more inclined to give the movie a nostalgic pass despite its plot problems including a weird mix of 1960's MIB technology that seems both more and less advanced than what the secret organization works with in the present (or 15 years ago).

With Agent K erased from existence, it's up to Agent J (Will Smith, embracing his old screen-persona that he's been running away from for most of the past decade in his attempt to become a more serious actor) to put the timeline back on the right course and save his partner's life. In the past he meets the young versions of Agents K and O (Alice Eve in a small, but good, performance) and the mysterious fifth-dimension alien (Michael Stuhlbarg) who is the key to restoring the original timeline.

Although Alice Eve works well as the younger version of Agent O, Emma Thompson is horribly miscast as the current version of the character. The actress is forced into one of the most embarrassing moments of her career (even worse than appearing in Junior) in one of the film's many attempts for a big laugh that simply dies on-screen.

The film also tries to put a bow on the series by allowing Agent J to finally discover the "one moment" that changed his partner into the grumpy old man he is now. Although the less-than-shocking reveal brings the two partners closer together, it's far from the life-shattering event that the film promises to share but doesn't deliver.

Brolin clearly steals the show here, and watching him play a younger version of Tommy Lee Jones (in a movie that includes Tommy Lee Jones) is fun, but one performance does not a movie make. Smith is in full smart-ass mode, and less charming than he's been in a movie in, oh say, ten years. Everyone else involved seems to idling on cruise control waiting for a moment to shock them out of the malaise they find themselves. I can't bring myself to recommend the film, but there's probably enough for fans of the franchise to have a few laughs and look at the massive amount of CGI-heavy action sequences (even if they may not quite get their money's worth).

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