Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are back as Agents J and K, respectively, and in this latest Men in Black movie, Agent K has been erased from the timeline by the baddest baddie of all, Boris the Animal. Agent J’s tasked with jumping, literally, back in time and saving his stone-faced partner from certain death. Along the way, J learns about how the events of the past shaped his relationships, and ultimately his life, in the present.
Men in Black III is a ton of fun. Boris the Animal (played by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement) is a grotesquely toothed, black-goggled alien, imprisoned on the moon by Agent K. Upon breaking out, he jumps back in time to save his arm being shot off by K and finish him off for good. He succeeds, because Agent J, upon returning to work, finds that Agent K was killed over 40 years ago. In order to save K, J must jump back in time before Boris attacks K, to save both past and present K.
Director Barry Sonnenfeld doesn’t get hung up on the normal “messing with the past will alter the future” cliches of time-travel movies—Agent J blows things up with reckless abandon in the past in order to save his friend. And the plot is miles ahead of the clap-trap in Men in Black II. This movie feels fresh as it winds the clock back to 1969. Fish-out-of-water jokes abound with Smith’s Agent J walking around 1969 New York; all models are aliens, and Andy Warhol is an undercover Men in Black agent (Bill Hader, “You gotta get me out of here, I’m just drawing soup cans and bananas”).
By far, the one person worth the price of admission is Josh Brolin as the young, 1969-version of Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K. Brolin simply nails it. He brings gravitas, heart, witty banter, and stoic glares, all while doing an impersonation that you forget is an impersonation within the first few lines. It’s that good. And emotion, surprisingly, that might even cause a few grown men to tear up near the close.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the character of Griffin, played to mind-hopping perfection by Michael Stuhlbarg (Rene Tabard in Hugo). I love it when characters pop off the screen, and Stuhlbarg’s 5th dimensional character (Griffin can see all possibilities in all futures simultaneously) does just that. Delivering the long strings of lines alone are a marvel, and his ability to play a near schizophrenic, jumping from seemingly random thoughts to extreme poignancy is an absolute delight.
As in the other Men in Black movies, there are certain Easter eggs to look for in the background. In the first Men in Black, a bank of screens that monitor all alien activity on planet earth showed celebrities–Rocky, Michael Jackson, and so on–implying their other-worldly origins. This time around? Tim Burton and Yao Ming are on the screens, with a shackled Howard Stern in the background, caught in customs at the Men in Black headquarters.
The story culminates in an amazing scene, revealing the true nature of the relationship between Agents J and K. It’s surprisingly emotional for a Sci-Fi comedy.
Men in Black III is PG-13 for good reason, with several meaty swear words, a scantily-clad opening scene, and some pretty gruesome deaths at the hand of Boris. However, it’s a fantastic addition, and a huge step up, as the third installment in the Men in Black series.
The opening scene isn’t for kids; Boris the Animal is brought a “get out of jail” cake by a nearly-clothed female, and escapes by pinning the guards to the walls by lethal darts shot out of an animal in his hand. A few other deaths in MIB III are equally as off-putting. The strong language isn’t pervasive throughout by any means, but enough to make a parent sitting next to a 13-year-old cringe a bit. Smith’s Agent J encounters racism as an African American stuck in 1969, and there is a stereotypical character in an Asian restaurant.
Watch the official trailer for Men In Black 3.
Watch the music video for “Back In Time” by Pitbull, from the Men In Black 3 soundtrack.