With films like “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Prometheus” on the horizon, you might get the idea that audiences are warming up to smarter blockbusters. Then, you sit through “Men in Black 3” and listen to an audience roar with laughter as a talking head gets rolled down a bowling lane or an alien pretends to be a Chinese waiter.
It may not sink as low as last week’s “Battleship,” but “Men in Black 3” is a perfect example of how cheap and terribly stupid a summer film can be.
The film serves as a sequel to “Men in Black 2,” which debuted in 2002 to dwindling success compared to its 1997 predecessor. It follows Agent J (Will Smith) as he travels back to 1969 in an attempt to save his fellow agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) from a less-than-ideal fate at the hands of the evil Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clements).
While the bygone era lends itself to a delightful cameo by “Saturday Night Live”-alum Bill Hader as Andy Warhol, it is largely fatigued by tiresome clichés. Hippies giving flowers, asking others to “make love not war?” Smith himself lamenting how “his kind” was disliked during the 1960’s? At least try for an element of originality if you are trying to be clever.
The poorly written supporting characters also bog down a movie that cannot successfully be carried by the charisma of Smith alone.
Michael Stuhlbarg—who gave one of the year’s best performances of 2009 in “A Serious Man”—turns out to be one of the worst aspects of the movie. His character of Griffin is obnoxious, enigmatic and frankly, quite nauseating to listen to. Griffin is a soothsayer, if you will, that helps guide the characters in achieving their destinies, but not without offering up cringe worthy advice that is supposed to read as wisdom.
Clements as Boris is also bogged down by infantile dialogue, which is only marred by his indecipherable manner of growling out his words.
While “Men In Black 3” was both mediocre and cartoonish at the beginning in particular, a handful of softhearted scenes throughout gave the story a much-needed backbone. Although they may not have redeemed the film entirely, the ending specifically helped character arcs come full-circle and dared to go into territory that many action-comedies steer clear of.
Watching Jones continually struggle with his past was a particularly moving scenario, made all the more engaging by the gifted Josh Brolin as Agent K’s younger self. Brolin is a dead-ringer for Jones and perfectly mimicked his mannerisms while creating a fresh origin character.
That was probably the most painful part of the film: watching a slew of such talented actors waste away in mediocre dreck. They have proven their chops in the likes of “No Country for Old Men,” “An Education,” “Pursuit of Happyness” and more—if they want to take a break from the more dramatic fare, at least do something with half a brain in its head.
“Men in Black” 3 is a childish and formulaic blockbuster that will entertain those who feel like wasting money on mindless entertainment. How about you save your money for something that actually requires an IQ and a pulse? And no, next week’s “Piranha 3DD” does not count.