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Peace, Love...Aliens?: MIB are back with diminishing returns. 

Men in Black is back with its third film starring, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

click to enlarge men_in_black_3_6.jpg
It's been 10 years since Men in Black 2 came out, which is long enough for me to have completely forgotten every single detail of it (other than remembering Biz Markie played an alien in it). I don't think anyone was really asking for another Men in Black movie, but as one of the world's most bankable stars, Will Smith can get a project rolling despite the logical reasons against it. So, he got it made and now here it is, a sequel to a sequel with a 39 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes that occupies zero consciousness on the cultural radar. In other words, my expectations were pretty low and the film met those expectations exactly.

Will Smith is still the goofy Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones is still the stone faced Agent K and they're still saving Earth from extra-terrestrial menaces while Smith gripes about Jones never opening up in a partnerly way. It's an ouroboros of a conversation that feels like it has been going for 15 years (because it has!), but M3B throws a wrench into the familiar set-up by having an escaped serial killer travel back in time to 1969 and kill Agent K. Agent Will Smith then travels back to 1969 himself to save a younger Agent K (Josh Brolin doing a flawless TLJ impression) and familiar fish out of water hijinks ensue.

Take a wild guess: Do you think Smith encounters A) casual racism, B) gigantic cell phones, C) Andy Warhol or D) all of the above?

If you guessed D, then you've seen movies before.

It's all very safe and predictable. If you've seen the trailers (or the first two movies), then you know exactly what you're going to get out of this. That's not to say the film is entirely without merit. It does do a few things so perfectly that it almost brings the film up to a higher level than the original.

The casting is flawless, with Josh Brolin serving as a very welcome replacement for Tommy Lee Jones for about 75 percent of the film. His impression is great, but he also instills K with a soul, so we're not just watching a talent show routine. But Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Concords) steals the entire film as Boris the Animal, an alien serial killer out to conquer Earth. Somehow Clement is both hysterically funny and genuinely menacing. His performance is an absolute joy to watch.

Smith and Jones are both fine and give it their all, but the script doesn't reward them. We have all the bad jokes, most of the exposition and none of the truly memorable bits. Every time there's danger of them having a heart to heart, you'll pray the script gets back to all the awesome aliens and creatures impeccably designed by FX genius Rick Baker. (If you’re not familiar, look him up.)

M3B is an acceptable summer film with some solid action sequences, funny bits and inspired acting. But in a summer where we were blessed by The Avengers and are still looking forward to The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus and The Amazing Spider Man, it's just not good enough. Yes, it looks (and sounds!) great on IMAX, but it's a hollow experience. In fact, it leaves your memory so fast it feels almost like Agents J and K used a Neuralyzer on you. You’ll walk out of the multiplex knowing you have watched something, but not really sure what it was.

Men in Black 3

2 Stars

Starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg and Emma Thompson.

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.

Rated PG-13

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