It’s been 15 years since the first Men In Black movie, and 10 years since its sequel (feel old yet?). Now it’s evident that the the studios want to reach back into the past once more to reunite Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as agents J and K, respectively. Only this outing involves time travel, almost a natural succession of the franchise and perhaps the only way they could breathe any sort of life into it.
The story goes that one of the alien monsters Agent K put in prison, Boris the Animal (played in pantomime fashion by Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords), escapes and travels back in time to kill the past K, thus erasing him from the current timeline. Turning up to the work one day and finding that K has been dead for over 40 years, J time travels back to 1969 in order to stop his partner from being killed.
There’s are two saving graces of Men In Black 3, an otherwise tired and lazy sequel that functions in such a by-the-numbers fashion that no amount of Will Smith charm can overcome it. The first is Josh Brolin, who gives an uncanny performance as the young Agent K, his deadpan delivery offsetting Smith’s usual (tired?) schtick and ultimately stealing every moment he’s on-screen. His performance is enhanced even more in comparison to Jones who is practically phoning it in.
The second is the ending. Not to give too much away but how it deals with its particular brand of time travel (a tricky thing to dive into with narrative storytelling) is surprisingly clever and even touching. When what preceded is just more of the same from a franchise that’s long past its sell-by-date, the ending hits with a smack of redemption in more ways than one.
However, the negatives far outweigh the positives, unfortunately. The main problem with the film is that it just feels tired, slapped together just for the sake of having another sequel with the same sort of gags and visuals, the latter of which has obviously improved because CGI has developed over the last decade but it does little in the execution of that to move things forward (fitting, then, that the plot involves going back in time!) It’s just filled with tired gags, tired visuals and a tired tone that seems to have forgotten we’re not in 2002 anymore.
There are some fun moments here and there (mainly involving background gags about which celebrities might be aliens) and an ending that at least follows through on its bold time travel premise, but that’s just not enough when you consider the money and talent involved. Brolin is the bright spot in an otherwise superfluous, perfunctory third effort.