Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Men in Black 3 (Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012) -- D

Nothing is more disingenuous than a franchise that tries to shoe-horn sentimentality as a capstone for its latest installment - especially if said sentimentality was never earned in previous films. Yet, that's precisely what Barry Sonnenfeld's latest entry into the now comprehensively vapid, void of a sci-fi series has done, sending Agent J (Will Smith) back in time to prevent partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) from being offed by alien-lunatic-killer Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement). Eventually, the time-travel is revealed as a means for reuniting J with his father - a most distasteful conclusion that doesn't bear rehashing here. While the first film (a good one) established itself on irreverence and a rambunctious degree of sardonic humor, the premise and jokes the third time around have been thoroughly neutered and watered-down, presumably to make the product more "family-friendly" or "accessible." The latter term is something that could describe a lot of Hollywood fare these days (or the intent), which is why it becomes even more vital to praise films like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance for their, no pun intended, devil may care attitudes. With MIB3, the conceit of revisiting 1960's Americana is simply an excuse to waddle through cultural signposts. Andy Warhol jabs, Mick Jagger punchlines - the list could easily go on, but what's the use? The real potential lies in the possibility of juxtaposing Smith's "street smart" agent against a more tumultuous social background, then wryly revealing that ultimately, not all that much has changed over the last 40 years. That would be social satire - but Sonnenfeld couldn't be less interested in doing anything serious with the material. Furthermore, instead of producing or creating laughs on-screen, every single frame or line of dialogue plays pre-determined or canned, almost as if it's disintegrating right after it leaves the screen. None of these woes should be much of a surprise given the film's production troubles - it's been widely reported that the film began shooting without a completed script and eventually drew the pens of nearly half a dozen writers. All of this spells bad faith on the part of Sonnenfeld, Jones, and especially Smith, whose return after a four year hiatus should have yielded something with far more conviction and far less audience pandering. Luckily, with the film's lukewarm opening - this time, the joke's on them.


  1. Good review Clayton. I had a lot of fun with this flick and was a lot better than the second one, that's for sure. It was also great to see Will Smith back in action on the big-screen after 4 years away from it. 4 YEARS!!

  2. I would agree if Smith had more to do - I've always liked him as a screen presence, but here the whole thing, while competent and reasonably well-put together, just feels like a cash-in. Where has the bizarro humor of the first film gone?