Film Review: Men in Black 3

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Boy Killed by Little Glass Planet

Men in Black 3 is one of those movies that makes even the most passionate film enthusiast question their core beliefs. There are greater film crimes out there; less coherent, more idiotic; but there’s something about this plastic flick, with its diluted humour; piss and tapwater; effects that encrust on the eye like a layer of scum, and cornball ending, that withers you. The human body wasn’t designed to absorb this kind of lackadaisically conceived splooge.

It’s a poor re-launch vehicle for Will Smith. Dealing from the nostalgia deck is a desperate game. Youth is the most forgiving critic there is; hindsight the least so. An inferior copy of a McMovie may court the diehards on opening weekend, but the same late twenty/early thirtysomethings won’t be returning for more nowadays; they’ve got insolent kids to look after, counselling to attend, awful in-laws to endure. Sony waited ten years to crank this one out. Ten years! If you have an iconic brand you can afford to sit on it for that long, but Ghostbusters’ poor relation from the ’90s? Men in Black 2 was disposable hit plus five years and that felt overdue. Those MIBs zapped me back then; I can’t remember a moment of that sequel.

Those ready to nom on reheated blockbuster are hungry for Smith’s re-emergence but it seems that both he and writer Etan Cohen (not to be confused with Ethan Cohen) were prepared to take Willy starved audiences for granted. Smith’s patter is laboured, his delivery indifferent. Cohen, writer of the equally mirthless Tropic Thunder, can’t rustle up a single zinger for the star of the show. Perhaps the hope was that Smith would do a vintage Eddie Murphy and alchemise a duff script using improvisation. On this evidence he couldn’t rouse himself. One sympathises.

What’s certain is that no-one paid to see Tommy Lee Jones and he duly obliges by absenting himself from 90% of the film. His contribution is practically honorary. With the budget a reputed $250m, it seems likely that some cash was spent on animating Jones’ puss. Josh Brolin’s impersonation fares better but it’s come to something when the movie’s best turn is a ventriloquist. “There’s nothing new” is a common criticism of these summer entertainments, but in this case it’s worse; even the new stuff isn’t new.

Barry Sonnenfeld, another returnee, began his career in porn and sure enough, the old skin flick merchant is still at it; he loves his money shots. In a nod to the industrial thinking that shapes the product, there are numerous computer assisted tracking shots; the kind that start in close up and end in your colon. The original film concluded with such a shot, but there are many more here; fool’s gold for those that paid the 3D shilling.

The movie is bolted together rather than crafted; the hallmarks of a shoddy manufacturer evident throughout. There’s a pop cultural reference here, skaz from the Fresh Prince there; even Emma Thompson turns up, after all the UK is a big market and we like to see our own, but her inclusion, like the movie’s very existence, suggests that Sony is behind the times. Perhaps in 2025, when Men in Black 4 is released, we can look forward to a bit part for man of the moment, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld

Country: US

Year: 2012

Running Time: 103 mins

Certificate: PG for stale jive and some strong impersonations.



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