Buddy films, however wonderful the chemistry between the two leads, rarely survive more than a single film. The problem is that all the tension between the protagonists is generally resolved by the end of the film, at which point they’re left being sympathetic friends — which ends up boring — or their tension and mutual harassment just doesn’t make sense. Think of ‘Bad Boys’, or ‘Another 48 Hours’ as two examples.
‘Men in Black 2’ suffered from the same problem: The tension between smart aleck Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) worked really well in the first film in the series, but was far less engaging in the second. Worse, the second also tried too hard to have weird aliens and a strange storyline. So you can imagine that when I went in to see ‘Men in Black 3‘ I was not expecting much, even with two immensely likable actors in the lead roles.
Surprise! ‘Men in Black 3’ proves quite fun and while it starts slow, director Barry Sonnenfeld manages to capture both the enjoyment of the semi-comic secret organization that serves both as a gateway for aliens wanting to visit or live on Earth and a police organization for aliens that are getting out of line. It’s kind of like an intergalactic parole officer’s association. This time, however, Agent K is in trouble with a bad alien, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) swears vengeance on him and vows to exact his revenge by going back in time 40 years to just before Agent K arrested and imprisoned him.
But K is famously taciturn and gruff, so Agent J can’t find out much at all about what happened back then, even the hint of a romance between K and the attractive Agent O (Emma Thompson). So to avoid the crime, Agent J goes back in time to 1969, just days before the launch of the Apollo 13 mission to the moon, and finds Agent K (now played by Josh Brolin) a surprisingly happy and engaged member of the Men in Black team. Brolin really nails the mannerisms of Jones so it’s delightful to see how the generational change plays out.
Of course, it’s hard to do a good job with the inherently confusing and tricky paradox of time travel, but the film does okay, and while the final wrapup and return to modern times is a bit fast and loose storywise, by then it doesn’t really matter and we’ve long since been drawn into the story.
I didn’t expect to like ‘Men in Black 3’ anywhere near as much as I did, but it’s a perfect summer movie after all, with good visual effects, a fun pair of primary characters and a storyline that’s just engaging enough to hold it all together. Check it out. Before you realize that your favorite celebrities are actually ugly aliens from another dimension.