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May 22, 2012

MEN IN BLACK III

Men_in_black_iiiSome of the luster has worn off the once-promising “Men in Black” franchise, if for no reason other than its long absence since the second installment in 2002. Nonetheless, the return of Barry Sonnenfeld — the director on the previous two films — allows for the required visionary cohesion.

The tension-riddled relationship between Men-In-Black partners Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is just as contentious as ever. Boris the Animal (Jermaine Clement) escapes from a lunar prison built for the purpose of containing, well, him. Agent K should have killed Boris when he had the chance back in 1969 during a showdown at Cape Canaveral during the launch of Apollo 11. Now back on Earth, Boris poses no small threat to humanity in general, and to Agent K in particular.

Image result for MEN IN BLACKTo put Boris in his proper place — a shallow grave — Will Smith’s Agent J must travel back in time to make sure Agent K kills Boris. The hokey plot device allows Josh Brolin to step up as a 40-year-younger version of Tommy Lee Jones. Sure enough, Brolin nails Jones’s laconic Texas drawl to a tee.

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The film’s unnecessary 3D effects are (spoiler alertà) less than impressive, but some choice comic episodes make the magic happen, as when Emma Thompson’s Agent O delivers a speech in an alien tongue. An interlude at Andy Warhol’s Factory gives Bill Hader some comic distance to run with as the wigged master of pop art.

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“Men In Black III” might not have all the earmarks of a comic classic, yet Will Smith and Josh Brolin each give performances so polished you could shine your shoes from a block away in the reflection. The only thing missing from Tommy Lee Jones’s screen-time is that there isn’t enough of it. Go ahead and eat some popcorn. “Men In Black III” is a great excuse to do so.

Rated PG-13. 105 mins.

3 Stars

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