Released theatrically in May; available on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital platforms on November 30th
I suspect that the majority of people who watched Men In Black II would be hard-pressed to tell you much of anything that happened in it - I certainly couldn't. Part of the reason would be that it came out a decade ago, another would be that if what little memory I do have of the sequel serves me correctly, it just wasn't very good (which is backed up by some pretty poor ratings from critics and the public on Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes, and IMDB). So the release of a third film in the series, Men In Black 3 (now inconsistently titled without the Roman numerals to accommodate its theatrical 3D release), seemed to be fairly unnecessary. But director Barry Sonnenfeld, who's helmed all three of the franchise's movies, has delivered much more than the uninspired cash grab that I was anticipating - Men In Black 3 has actually been my most pleasant movie surprise of the year so far.
The plot involves Will Smith's Agent J character time traveling back about 40 years to save the life of his partner, Agent K, from an escaped convict who has also traveled back in time to change the course of events that led to his imprisonment. A perfectly cast Josh Brolin, playing a younger version of Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K, completely steals the film from a reliably excellent Smith (Jones has only limited screen time). Brolin's physical similarity to a younger Jones is most helpful, but it's the actor's absolute bang-on replications of Jones' character's Texas drawl, expressionless mug, and mannerisms that really elevate Men In Black 3's entertainment level. He's so fantastic that it's not even difficult to just go with the fact that the film is trying to pass off the now 44-year-old Brolin as someone in his late 20s.
A great supporting cast contributes to the movie's high likability factor, led by Flight Of The Conchords' Jemaine Clement as Boris The Animal, that escaped convict. In a year where just about every villain in a sci-fi film was rather lame, Clement's Boris stands out for both his humourous one-liners and his lack of reliance on stiff, still-not-realistic-looking CGI. Michael Stuhlbarg is first-rate as the meek visionary Griffin - he completely disappears into the character and it's a testament to Stuhlbarg's skills that I never recognized him as the same actor who appears regularly on a show I've seen every episode of, HBO's Boardwalk Empire. Also delivering fine work in small roles are Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader as Andy Warhol and a seriously sexy Emma Thompson as the head of the covert extraterrestrial-monitoring agency that the agents work for.
Like any movie that messes with the space time continuum model, there's some glaring gaps in logic, but the idea injects some fresh life into the series, allowing for some nice filling in of the character's backstories and a number of fun fish-out-of-water/social commentary scenarios for Smith's character, as he navigates an America just settling into the post-civil rights era. And "fun" is the dominant theme of the hilarious and unexpectedly terrific Men In Black 3.