Men in Black 3 (2012)

Exemplary

Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on June 2, 2012 on tonymacklin.net.

1968 was the year both Will Smith and Josh Brolin were born.

Now Smith and Brolin get together on screen for about an hour in Men in Black 3 - set when? 1969.

It's a serendipitous uniting. Smith again plays Agent J, and Brolin plays 29-year-old Agent K.

They get together when Boglodite Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) breaks out of prison, and travels back to 1969 where he kills Agent K. History is changed, and the present earth is threatened by a destructive alien assault, because Boris lives and K doesn't.

Since Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) in the present has vanished, he never was J's partner, and history has been revoked.

J has to time travel back to 1969 and attempt to save K and the future world.

It perhaps sounds convoluted, but it's not. It's easy to suspend one's disbelief this time out. Just accept time travel, and age doesn't much matter.

What makes Men in Black 3 accessible is that it's streamlined. In the contemporary universe of blockbuster movies, self-indulgence and technical overkill often rule. But Men in Black 3 avoids that.

Men in Black 3 is a very pleasant surprise. It's a mere 106 minutes of agile entertainment.

Men in Black 3 does begin with an explosive action sequence, but early on it's a little bogged down by the cranky stolidness of K.

At times Jones and Smith almost seem to be going through the motions. But this sets up well what is to follow.

When J plummets into the past, the film changes. He meets an agreeable, amiable K (Brolin). "What happened to you?" J in near-disbelief asks the younger K, his once and future partner.

At the end, Men in Black 3 veers into sentimentality. That's usually a problem, but here it's a special effect.

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones [born in 1946] do their patented roles, but Brolin brings a fresh energy to the younger Agent K. The fact that 44-year-old Brolin plays a 29-year-old is not a problem. Brolin adds a dimension that humanizes K.

Jemaine Clement is lethal bluster as Boris. Emma Thompson is attractive as Agent O. The past young Agent O is beautiful in the embodiment of actress Alice Eve.

But the actor and character that most humanizes the movie is Michael Stuhlbarg [also born in 1968] as Griffin, the alien with the gift of seeing various potential future happenings and outcomes, positive or horrible.

He shows J and K the future Amazin' Mets of 1969. Talk about a field of dreams.

Griffin is both knowing and insecure. He's a very "human" alien. Stuhlbarg gives an affecting performance of warmth and fearful anxiety.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld keeps his effects going at a fast clip. Writer Etan Cohen provides some clever touches, e.g., J on his fall through past years flies past a man plummeting through the air after the stock market crash of 1929.

Rick Baker with makeup , Bill Pope with cinematography, and Bo Welch with production design all accomplish their usual stellar work.

Men in Black 3 resists the onslaught of an army of wizardly techies.

Men in Black 3 not only survives.

Its humanity prevails.

In Men in Black 3, 1969 was a very good year.


You might be interested in reading my most recent reviews, all of my reviews from this year, or all of my reviews from last year.

For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).


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