an you believe it's been four years that Will Smith has even appeared in a movie. It seemed like he took time off in his career to shove his annoying children down America's throat with a son so full of false swagger he had the balls to remake The Karate Kid
and a daughter who made a song so abbrasive that it should be used as a car alarm. But before Smith annoyed us with that, he annoyed us by becoming an A-list celebrity who no longer made good movies. Depending on your taste in films and your standards for what constitutes quality entertainment, you could make a case that Men in Black 2
was his last good movie and that was a decade ago. So should Will Smith be the only one happy that Tommy Lee Jones agreed to don the black suit again? If you ask me, the answer is "no way" because it's excellent!
Directory Barry Sonnenfeld is a guy that has a unique style and the Men in Black
series seems to be the only commercially successful outlet for it. But the guy makes great looking films even when they turn out to be complete duds like RV
or Big Trouble
. His films feel like Tim Burton movies but without all the cutting and trademarked moping. Despite the lack of success, I still would put The Addams Family
movies in my Top 100 Favorite Comedies. If anyone else would have attempted to make the next installment of Men in Black
, I'm certain it would have been awful since it is as much Sonnenfeld's as it is Smith's and Jones'.
Rule #1 in Hollywood generally is that if you're going to make a sequel, you don't mess with what made it successful. Well Oscar-winner Tommy Lee Jones is a massive part of that success since, to those that appreciate subtle humor, his stoic persona is funnier than Smith at times; however in Men in Black 3
you will see very little of Jones at all. A decision like that couldn't have panned out unless they got the homerun performance they did from Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men, True Grit
Brolin plays Jones' Agent K character but in 1969. That's right, Sonnenfeld tried to double down on risk and make the next installment a time travel film as well. Time Travel, as a genre, is the very definition of "Big Risk, Big Reward;" it can either give you fantastic science-fiction stories or some of the worst that just confuse and detract an audience. I'm thrilled to say that Men in Black 3
is one of the more fantastic ones. It knows that its target audience didn't come to think so they spell out as much zig-zagging time paradoxes as they have to so as not to lose them all while keeping the classic Men in Black
But back to Brolin. As impressive as the special FX are and alien make-up (which Sonnenfeld mutes a little more in this thankfully), the most amazing thing to watch in the film is Brolin's performance. He is so convincing as a younger Tommy Lee Jones that you completely lose sight that it's Brolin you're watching. He did this once before in Oliver Stone's W
where he did a flawless job portraying George W. Bush. The man has a knack for vocal nuances and physical impersonation performance.
The other scene stealers are Bill Hader (SNL, Superbad
), who is sadly only featured in one scene as a very famous '60s icon and Oscar-nominated Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man, Hugo
). Stuhlbarg plays an alien that is blessed and cursed with constantly seeing every possible outcome to every possible existence and he's amazing at it. Just like he did in his performance for A Serious Man
, he invokes a balanced mix of humor and sadness that makes every scene he's in fun to watch.
The most shocking thing about Men in Black 3,
to me at least, was that it almost brought a tear to my eye at the end. Again, a totally unneccessary risk that Sonnenfeld took but I'm thrilled that he did. I not only forgot how funny Smith can be but also how well he can move an audience too. (Need I remind you of the dog scene in I Am Legend
?) It was such a successful ending that it makes me hope the Men in Black
series goes out on that pitch-perfect note, but then again I hope they don't if they can still make them this good.
Men in Black 3 (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: A-