Buried inside this noisy, joyless ‘3-quel’ (or is it ‘prequel’) to the original MIB, a hipster comedy about secret agents of the Federal Bureau of Alien Investigation (the FBAI?), are one or two neatly spotted stealth gags. In one, Emma Thompson’s agency head suddenly starts speaking in tongues; the other, set in the film’s gimmicky flashback to 1969, needs no more than having a car radio switched on. Everything else in here occurs in a mirthless vacuum more concerned with diagraming elaborate time-jumping metaphysics than in mining for comic opportunities. Surely, the last of the series.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: And yet, the film holds real fascination for career gazers who get a rare chance at watching a major star go into hiding right in front of their eyes. A decade past MIB-II/’02, Will Smith is no longer the young pup next to Tommy Lee Jones’s grizzled, comically laconic agent. At 44, the high-spirits & youthful braggadocio now look like over-weaning self-regard, a classic case of Robert Downey, Jr. syndrome. Smith works considerably better against Josh Brolin, cleverly cast as Jones’s younger self. Brolin, who happens to be the same age as Smith, plays junior partner in their scenes together which lets Smith play straight-man/big-brother. It’s something new for Smith, a Tom Hanks role. Hell, Smith even looks a bit like Hanks in certain shots. Sounds a little goofy, but Smith must have been thinking along similar lines since he's vacated himself from the big screen for a couple of years.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The original MEN IN BLACK/’97 remains good goofy fun, even a touch scary.