Thursday, May 24, 2012

Basic Black: “Men in Black 3”

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
Right off the bat, I must give credit to the filmmakers for the bold retro move of just adding a number to the end of the sequel’s title. I’m sure the studio wanted some stupid name like Men in Black: The Redemption or Men in Black: Scoundrel Days. And then when it’s on cable you can never figure out which is the second movie and which is the third, etc. So thank you, Barry Sonnenfeld, you are a man of principle.

Emma Thompson, Will Smith
Secondly, if your kids ever need a cautionary tale about the dangers of alcohol abuse, look no further than actor Rip Torn. His arrest on trespassing and firearm charges has now resulted in his characters being killed off on both 30 Rock and now the Men in Black series. Zed is dead, replaced by Emma Thompson, who doesn’t have Torn’s comic flair. (And yet probably was much less likely to have an on-set meltdown.)

Your kids may not have been with us when the series began, way back in 1997. Do they need to see the previous installments to enjoy part 3? Nah. Black suits. Crazy aliens. You can catch on pretty quickly. But just because you can enjoy something doesn’t mean you necessarily will. As for Men in Black 3, you and the family might have a good time—or might not.

The movie certainly starts out strongly enough. However, early on I wondered if it would be appropriate for most kids: There is a sexy woman, an (albeit comedic) French kiss, and the s-word, and this was feeling like a tough PG-13. But from that point on, most of the movie was pretty tame and safe for youngsters who can laugh at a gross alien.

Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords is very effective as a villainous gross alien. He plays it fairly straight and is kind of terrifying. (You know, terrifying in a fun, MIB sort of way.) The 3D is immediately impressive. Will Smith shows up, he looks great, and he’s in fine wisecracking form.

Tommy Lee Jones and friend.
Then he has to time-travel to save Tommy Lee Jones from, uh, some kind of comic-book sci-fi sort of thing. This is when you think the movie will kick into a whole other gear, but surprisingly, it drags, and for quite a while. This is despite the appearance of top-flight actors: Josh Brolin doing a solid impression of the young Tommy Lee Jones, Bill Hader doing a funny Andy Warhol impression, and Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man; Boardwalk Empire) troublingly looking a lot like Elijah Wood.

Certainly most children won’t be transfixed by a journey back to 1969. There are some long-haired hippies about, but the movie doesn’t really take advantage of this extreme fish-out-of-water situation. Instead, it’s: Ooh, look kids, we’re in Andy Warhol’s Factory! And hey, there’s Cleon Jones and the Amazin’ Mets! On the bright side, perhaps this could spark some history discussions for the family—even civil rights get a quick, unsatisfactory mention.

Smith and Jones
Interestingly, when the film reaches a real-life moment that kids might genuinely enjoy—the moon mission—the movie starts to pick up again. The 3D and action become lively again. And there’s even some unexpected poignance, and against all odds it works.

So, a mixed review, but I’m ultimately leaning slightly positive. And why? Well, there’s a scene at Andy Warhol’s Factory in which Josh Brolin is talking with Michael Stuhlbarg, who is wearing a parka and knit cap. Every time the camera turns to Brolin, in the background over his shoulder on the right, you can see my friend Tiffany. She’s an extra wearing a light green dress, her red hair is piled high, and she’s very pretty. I anticipate an Oscar nod.


  1. Ah, how cool your friend was an extra. Seen all MIB so far & at some point will see this one too. I served Josh Brolin once & everyone was like Do you know who that was?....but the best part was he was with his wife Diane Lane! No real chit chat, just service & a smile. Now I art, craft & blog from home lol. Great review! Visiting from I'll remember to look for Tiffany ;)

    1. That is such a cool story! I love Diane Lane, too. Thanks for the compliment, but it was actually our contributor Jack Silbert who wrote the great review (and whose pal Tiffany is in the movie.) but I'll be sure and check out your site. Thanks for visiting. Don't be a stranger!

  2. Nobody was really ever praying and wishing for the third film in this series, but it wasn't all that bad. I still had plenty of fun with Will Smith and I thought James Brolin's whole impersonation/performance of Tommy Lee Jones, was spot-on and added a whole lot more comedy to the final product. Good review Maggie.

    1. Thanks for the compliment! The review was written by our avid contributor Jack Silbert. I'll pass along your kind words! Please visit regularly! We'd love to hear more from you.