MEN IN BLACK 3 (Rated PG-13)
More often than not, sequels that may have seemed like a good idea on paper prove not to have achieved the desired effect.
Even George Lucas lost the magic touch when he got to the fourth “Star Wars” adventure. And what about Harrison Ford, entitled to Medicare, still trying to be a vital, energetic, whip-snapping Indiana Jones?
When did a second sequel to “Men in Black” become a good idea? It’s been 10 years since “Men in Black 2,” which was such a dud that I bet few can recall the plot or main villain. I know I am stumped.
It was 15 years ago that the original “Men in Black,” was released, with Tommy Lee Jones as the cranky Agent K and the youthful Will Smith as Agent J.
Heck, I wasn’t sure if Tommy Lee Jones was still alive. If the filmmakers wait another decade for “Men in Black 4,” the main star will definitely have to be wheeled out of the Old Actors Home in Woodland Hills.
The burning question is whether “Men in Black 3” is a smash hit or a stinker. After all, it’s tempting to think the franchise has the “sure thing” appeal going for it.
I have mixed feelings about “Men in Black 3.” On the one hand, it’s relatively true to its heritage, though it is lighter on comedy and heavier on the action.
“Men in Black 3” also goes far to erase the bad taste of the second film, which even though I have forgotten the details, I know enough not to watch it ever again.
This third installment has a nice twist with the appearance of Josh Brolin in the role of a young Agent K. In chameleon-like fashion, Brolin is a dead ringer for Tommy Lee Jones, in speech if not completely in looks.
The nasty chief villain this time is Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), a hideous beast who’s been confined to a maximum security prison on the moon.
Harboring a grudge from an incident in 1969, Boris blames Agent K for the lost of his right arm during a horrific battle that led to his imprisonment.
As a result, Boris breaks out of prison and time travels back more than four decades so that he may change the course of history by eliminating Agent K permanently.
OK, this explains how Josh Brolin comes into the picture as Agent K. With Boris jumping back in time, it’s up to Agent J to also to slip through the space-time continuum to the time when Apollo 11 launched for the moon.
Of course, the late 1960s is something of a culture shock for Agent J, seeing how the Civil Rights movement was still nascent and not many people of color ran around Manhattan dressed like the Blues Brothers.
The fun part is that Agents J and K are now oddly teamed up as contemporaries, with Agent K, though still gruff, not quite as crabby as we expect him.
As it happens, Brolin’s Agent K steals the movie, his deadpan humor just as good as that delivered by Tommy Lee Jones. He’s also very adept at wiping out an entire Chinese restaurant run by aliens and patronized by the same ilk.
Even when Jones’ Agent K is in the picture, the film is lacking the biting contentious banter between the older agent and his protégé that was the best thing about the original “Men in Black.”
This time around, the humor and repartee take a back seat to more full-blown action. There should have been more comic potential for Agent J’s fish-out-of-water experiences as he copes with the strange world of 1969.
Clement’s Boris the Animal is a vile, disgusting creature, all the more so because strange alien things slither in and out of his various body parts.
The central bad guy is more creepy than frightening. Not a moment is to be found where you think Boris just might get the upper hand on the Men in Black.
One of the memorable scenes involves Bill Hader in a cameo as Andy Warhol working with a bunch of rail-thin models who turn out to be aliens.
Another revelation comes during a showdown at Cape Canaveral, on the day that Apollo 11 blasts off for its historic journey to the moon. I’ll say no more, but it’s a truly sentimental and enlightening moment.
“Men in Black 3” – not as good as you hoped it would be, and not as bad as you feared. Overall, it’s better than a lot of what passes for summer blockbuster fun.
DVD RELEASE UPDATE
Just in time for the Stanley Cup, Magnolia Home Entertainment is releasing its hockey comedy “Goon” on DVD, including a tutorial called “Fighting 101.”
If you think hockey is about body slamming and cheap hits, then “Goon” is for you. It’s also for you if you have fond memories of “Slap Shot.”
“Goon” goes a lot farther than “Slap Shot” in glorifying the role of team enforcer during hard-fought, brutal games.
Seann William Scott (aka Stifler) plays Doug Glatt, a simple, lovable guy who dreams of a more rewarding job than bouncer at a dive bar.
When a chance encounter with an on-ice thug leads to a fistfight that Doug easily wins, the on-looking coach sees Doug’s potential, in spite of his lack of hockey skills.
Joining the Halifax minor league team and with encouragement from his buddy (Jay Baruchel), Doug quickly becomes a rising star.
Soon he’ll have the opportunity to face-off against the infamous league thug Ross Rhea (Live Schreiber), perhaps finally land a girlfriend and stick to a job he enjoys.
All Doug has to do is to learn how to skate. And hockey fans will probably love the film’s vulgar, offbeat humor.
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.