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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 25, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 21
Brolin makes MIB3 something of a surprise
Arts & Entertainment
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Brolin makes MIB3 something of a surprise

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

After the abysmal Men in Black II, I can't think of anyone I know who was clamoring for yet another return of Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones). Considering the fact that no one involved with that 2002 flick - not the two stars, nor producer Steven Spielberg, nor director Barry Sonnenfeld - had exactly been breaking down doors to get a third film made, it's probably safe to say they weren't excited about the idea either.

Yet here we are, facing the crystal-clear truth that Men in Black 3 does, indeed, exist. Still based on the comic book by Lowell Cunningham, still directed by Sonnenfeld, still produced by Spielberg, and still starring two actors who could do just about anything they want, one has to imagine Columbia Pictures offered everyone involved a gigantic pile of cash to get this thing into theaters. Either that, or they've got some pretty amazing blackmail on all the main players.

Sarcastic kidding aside, perhaps the 10-year break from this franchise has actually done Sonnenfeld and company some good. While certainly not an essential or memorable film, Men in Black 3 is actually something of a hoot. Etan Cohen's (Tropic Thunder) script manages to fix most of the problems that plagued the last film and return to the devil-may-care yet bizarrely grounded lunacy of the 1997 original, making the finished product surprisingly enjoyable.

Granted, there were numerous other writers (including Jurassic Park scribe David Koepp and Tower Heist impresario Jeff Nathanson) who reportedly worked on this project at one time or another, and the narrative does sometimes bounce around willy-nilly, especially early on, probably because of that. All the same, Cohen is the only writer given credit here, and as such he deserves the kudos for helping produce a finished product that feels self-contained and more or less in control of itself. It may not always make complete sense, but overall the story progression is on solid ground and, considering we're dealing with Star Trek-level time-travel shenanigans here, that's kind of saying something.

Another thing this movie has going for it: Josh Brolin. Pure and simple, casting him as the younger, 1969 pre-moon-launch version of Agent K was total genius. Brolin is Tommy Lee Jones, inhabiting him to such an extent that the effect is borderline eerie. But this isn't a caricature; this isn't some sort of mirror-like impersonation performance piece. The actor delivers a fully formed portrayal that's funny, energetic, exciting, and, most startling of all, emotionally moving. He's not going through the motions here, but investing so much of himself inside the character and the film that the full effect is frankly astonishing.

Can I say the same about Smith and Jones? Well, not entirely, but they're far more invested here than they were in the disastrous second feature. Granted, this time around they actually have something to do, instead of just recycling the gags from the first flick, only bigger and at a higher volume.

As for the plot, the less said the better. Not because I'm worried about spoiling anything - in all honesty there's not a lot to spoil - but more because, much like the first film, the whack-a-do nature of the comedy makes talking about the intricacies of the story mechanics not particularly important. Point A begins where you expect it to, Point B happens like clockwork, and Point C is more or less a foregone conclusion, with no real surprises. What is a shock is just how much fun Men in Black 3 turned out to be, and even though it's a highly unnecessary sequel, that doesn't make the smile on my face after watching it any less real.

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