Were any of us really crying out for a Men in Black sequel? I mean, yeah, I enjoyed the first two (despite the second one being, to be kind, a big pile of shit) but that was a decade ago, and I’m fairly sure we’d all moved on. But here we are, so let’s all try to make the best of it, shall we?
Because, to be fair, this isn’t nearly as bad as the signs were pointing to. It was stuck in development hell for years, had tons of rewrites, and includes an acting appearance from Nicole Scherzinger. But as it turns out, it’s enjoyable, funny in parts and Nicole (who, don’t get me wrong I adore, but she ain’t no actress) has little more than an extended cameo and probably only about three lines in total.
It all starts off as poorly as you would expect though. Will Smith has decided that he’s going to stick with the “fish-out-of-water” shrieking, immature slapstick crap, that was charming and funny twenty years ago, but now he’s over 40, and J is supposed to have been working for the MiB over a decade. You’d think he wouldn’t be eye-rolling at the weirdness of someone speaking Venusian by now. Meanwhile, Tommy Lee Jones… I don’t even know what’s happened to him. He spends the whole film acting like he’s a confused escapee from an old people’s home, and has none of the wit or chemistry with Will Smith that made the first two films so much fun to watch.
Fortunately, there’s a time jumping related plot which take J back to the 60’s, where he’s united with Josh Brolin’s younger version of K. And suddenly it’s like the old team is back together again. I’m not sure whether it’s because of Brolin’s ridiculously uncanny impression of Tommy Lee Jones, or it’s just because he’s one of the only actors in this who seems like he’s enjoying himself and not there for the cheque, but he completely makes this film.
Plus, once he’s stranded in the 60’s, J’s “fish-out-of-water” bollocks actually makes sense, and they have quite a lot of fun with it (such as the true identity of Andy Warhol) but sadly rather than making any points about the racism of the time, there’s just an excuse to have Will Smith do his poor little slave voice that he used in Wild Wild West a few times, and then just falls back on lazy stereotypes. I know I wasn’t there, but I’m fairly sure not every single last person in the 60’s was a hippie.
The bad guy is suitably disgusting, although not nearly as gross as the cockroach guy from the first one, and amazingly is played by Jermaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords, who is apparently doing his David Bowie impression throughout. As a bad guy, frankly, he’s not amazing, and is just there to pose a threat. Considering they got one of the funniest guys around in to play him, you’d think they would have given him a few jokes. Emma Thompson is also about as MiB’s new boss, and she gets a few funny lines but is basically playing Basil Exposition.
They try and pull a “touching” end out of their arses too, but it doesn’t really work, since not only did I see it coming a mile and a half away, but they barely build up the emotion, they’re just trying to pull at a few gullible heartstrings for some cheap tears. For a franchise that was built on a sarcastic knowing sense of humour this is pretty disappointing.
So, it’s better than the second, worse than the third and it’s only really worth watching after the first tedious half an hour and Will Smith goes back in time to the 60’s and Josh Brolin. I want the latter in the inevitable fourth one, I don’t care how ridiculous or desperate the plot device they use is, but I want him there.