Third Time a Charm, Thanks to Brolin
The Men in Black franchise has largely survived on its singular trick: the premise that Earth-visiting aliens are walking our streets, disguised as everyday working stiffs. Granted, the popularity of Will Smith certainly has its own widespread appeal, but thinking thereís a top-secret government agency out there, probably a branch of Homeland Security, zapping aliens by the thousands from some kind of alien no-fly list is a fun idea that has a slightly uncomfortable relevance in todayís post-911 world. However, the real enjoyment has always come from the unlikely on-screen chemistry of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, a curiously freakish pairing that picks at its own eccentricity with tongue planted firmly in cheek. With the latest installment, Men in Black 3, we uncover yet another glistening facet to this chemistry gem: Josh Brolin.
Brolin plays agent K. The 1969 agent K. Yes, itís a time travel deal. See, Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) have been partners for the last 15 years and are still valiantly ridding the world of aliens and wiping clean the memories of innocent civilians so they remain unaware of -- and therefore unfrightened by -- the ongoing alien invasion.
Meanwhile, a prison break at a maximum-security correctional facility on the moon has freed Boris the Animal (Flight of the ConchordsĎs Jermain Clement), an alien now hellbent on avenging his capture (and loss of his arm) some 40 years ago by agent K. Boris is a nasty dude, with an even nastier temperament. He has some kind of horrible, vicious spider-like creature that burrows its way into and out of his hand to do its masterís dirty work. Boris can also shoot -- from an endless cache -- these porcupine-like quills that almost always prove fatal by pinning the target to a wall in a bloody mess. In other words, donít find yourself up against Boris. Itís unlikely to turn out well.
When Boris goes back in time to 1969 for a revengeful re-do against a young Agent K (Brolin), the only person to realize this is Agent J, who eventually convinces his boss, Agent O (Emma Thompson) to let him travel back to one day before, to prevent Boris from killing K. If unsuccessful, not only will he lose his partner, but an impending alien invasion will take over the world. Silly, and unoriginal for sure, but itís all an excuse to get us back into the Ď60s so we can see Brolin doing Tommy Lee Jones. And the ruse works in spades.
The earlier parts of the film -- before the time jump -- are mostly a rehash from the franchiseís previous installments with J and K running around doing what they do. Rick Bakerís fascinating creature work never fails to provide an endless supply of delicious eye candy in every inch of the frame. And the visual effects are better than ever from five-time Oscar winner Ken Ralston. Nothing is ever subtle, but thatís what adds so much to the enjoyment in watching director Barry Sonnenfeld never take himself too seriously.
After the time jump however -- when Brolin takes to the screen -- the film begins to really soar. Brolin infuses the proceedings with a refreshing reinvigoration that pays off even beyond experiencing his uncanny impression of Tommy Lee Jones. And even beyond the nuanced interpretation, weíre enamored by that same wonderful chemistry displayed between Smith and Jones. Not only does Brolin get the physical demeanor and vocal cadence down, he nails the symmetry as well.
For fans of the franchise, Men in Black 3 gets things headed back in the right direction after a disrupting U-turn in Men in Black 2 and does just enough to justify the 10-year wait. In addition to satisfying the MIB fanatics, itís probably strong enough to pull in a new and much younger legion of fans with its brilliant effects and broad age appeal aided by the family-friendly ďPG-13Ē rating. Too, Will Smith has never failed to attract a strong following from the other side of the gender aisle. But beyond all that, we realize that without Josh Brolin, Men in Black 3 would become zapped from our memory as if by a proton neurolizer. Letís see what they pull from within their black suits for the next installment. Thereís certain to be one.
(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated ďPG-13Ē for sci-fi action violence and brief suggestive content.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.