Welcome back to the big screen, Will Smith. But did you have to choose “Men in Black III” as your first film since 2008’s “Seven Pounds?”
The third chapter in the “MIB” trilogy isn’t the disaster many feared. All that talk of an unfinished script and production delays spelled doom, not to mention it’s been a full decade since the underwhelming “Men in Black II” hit theaters.
Smith gets to pal around with both the laconic Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and his younger self (Josh Brolin) in the third installment. That’s not shabby for the price of admission, even with the superfluous 3D surcharge. But the “MIB” franchise doesn’t have much new to say, and the skimpy story feels like it was cobbled together to highlight its stars, not tell a story you won’t forget in a few short hours.
What movie were we discussing again?
The sequel starts with a nasty alien named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) breaking out of a space-based prison. Boris wants revenge on Agent K (Jones), the Man in Black who imprisoned him decades ago, blasting the monster’s arm clean off in the process.
When Boris transports himself back into the late 1960s for a rematch with Agent K, it’s up to Agent J (Smith) to stop him by following in Boris’ time-skipping heels. That leads to some predictable culture clash bits involving the ’60s as well as the chance to see what Agent K was like before all those wrinkles and slow burns settled in for the long haul.
“Men in Black III” showcases some new cast additions but gives them precious little to do or say. Why bother inviting Emma Thompson to the party if you’re going to squander her comic gifts?
But Brolin’s performance as the young, less embittered K is a constant delight. It’s not merely uncanny to watch Brolin channel Jones. Brolin builds on the chemistry Smith and Jones secured in the first two films, with with a few new twists to keep us engaged.
Too bad the story doesn’t measure up to all the star power on display. The scenes entertain individually, especially an appearance by Andy Warhol (Bill Hader), but they feel like “MIB” sketches meant to appease our short attention spans.
The final act features a rushed emotional moment that stands at odds with the movie’s otherwise jaunty tone, and Jones’ limited screen time suggests he was considered too old for the franchise or wanted little to do with extending it past its prime.
“Men in Black III” reminds us Smith has charisma to spare, but this goofy franchise doesn’t deserve him at this point.
Follow Christian Toto on Twitter @TotoMovies