With alien splatter action, clever plays on previous entries and more of those g-men/retro Mad Men types, agents J and K (Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones), Men in Black 3 aims for diehard series fans and delivers. However, those expecting more of the time travel twist – J goes back in time to meet the younger version of K (Josh Brolin) – are likely to be let down. The same goes for the 3D, which as usual serves no purpose other than to make it pop and hike the price.
Nothing pops in this bland movie – I confess that I found the first two pictures, which I think I saw on an airplane, equally forgettable if sufficiently entertaining – from the domanitrix in a lunar prison opener to the Apollo 11 launch-themed closer. I wish I could say it has its moments but what Men in Black 3 mostly has to offer is a thin fable about what it means to ask for it and get it that neatly fits the notion of a temporal transport to 1969 like a snug pair of bell-bottoms. It probably sounded good on paper as a hook to get the boys back in action (15 years after the original and for the first time since 2002) and there is an interesting connection but a sentimental angle lacks development so it feels formulaic.
The series’ humor remains, and there’s a decent villain (Jemaine Clement) who wants to tear up the earth, with bits that play on hippies, the ’69 Mets and what they’re really serving at a Chinese restaurant. Smith and Jones have these undemanding parts down pat and Brolin is surprisingly good as a younger version of the Jones character. But other than snappy or thoughtful lines about making time travel illegal or how a miracle’s what seems impossible but happens anyway, the movie sags in the middle and feels flat by the end. This recreation of 1969 is too contrived to have much fun with contrasts. A climax in Cape Canaveral is pre-set and therefore doesn’t hold suspense. Those invested in the men in black and seeing what became of them – and how they became them – will want to see this installment. The rest can wait to see Men in Black 3 in smaller formats and get a proportionate value.