Agents J and K (Will Smith, Josh Brolin) pull out their neuralyzers a bit prematurely in “Men in Black 3.” The movie, the third about a secret Earth agency of alien affairs, focuses on J traveling from the present to 1969 to prevent a younger K from being assassinated.

Sony Pictures Entertainment/Courtesy

Agents J and K (Will Smith, Josh Brolin) pull out their neuralyzers a bit prematurely in “Men in Black 3.” The movie, the third about a secret Earth agency of alien affairs, focuses on J traveling from the present to 1969 to prevent a younger K from being assassinated.

Break out the memory-eraser for 3rd ‘Men in Black’

photo

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

“Men in Black 3”

2.5 out of 4 stars

106 minutes

Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Jemaine Clement.

Now playing at the West Theatre and at Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

Movie trilogies are a tricky thing. For every “Toy Story 3” released there are about five disappointments like “The Godfather Part III” that just can’t stand with the origjnal, even on its own merits.

Such is the case of “Men in Black 3.”

Working for the Men in Black agency can take a lot out of a guy. Years of monitoring and policing alien activities have left Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) hardened to the process, and his partner J (Will Smith) has had more than enough of his associate’s attitude.

With the reemergence of a psychotic lifeform named Boris (Jemaine Clement) who has been imprisoned in a moon institution for decades, K warns J he could be killed off at any time. With all the weird, threatening things he’s seen since entering the job, J has little worries for K’s safety.

But when J wakes up one day to find K has vanished and he’s the only member of MIB who remembers him, that’s when he starts to get concerned.

According to boss Agent O (Emma Thompson), the universe has diverged into a new timeline, one where K has been dead since being killed in the line of duty as a rookie in 1969. Without K’s actions in the past, the Earth also stands to be invaded and destroyed.

With his new timeline getting worse by the minute, J has no choice but to travel back to the ‘60s and prevent his partner’s demise, though it might be hard to convince the younger K (Josh Brolin) what the future holds.

Donning the Ray-Bans and jet-black suit once again, Messrs. Jones and Smith are looking a smidge tired of the routine of the seasoned grump and his fast-talking protégé they started 15 years ago.

Though he’s erased from existence early on, Jones makes the most of his short time onscreen, showing us a K who’s really starting to crack under his lifestyle. Smith, on the other hand, can’t stretch out the part of “the funny one” as much he should, including his trip through time to the Age of Aquarius and all that entails.

Wow, a black guy from the 21st century trying to give ‘60s cops a lesson in racism. That spells fun.

Brolin gets the biggest laughs with his dead-on impression of a more fresh-faced Jones, just as serious and deadpan but not as callous about some of the nastier parts of his job.

Maybe that’s because he has yet to encounter his greatest threat.

Clement gives a guttural growl to the alien assassin that easily explains why his unwanted nickname is Boris the Animal, but his binocular peepers and talent for shooting spikes from his hands may have something to do with that as well.

Not all Earth visitors are so easy to identify, with Michael Stuhlbarg looking like a typical homeless man as Griffin, a fifth-dimensional being who can foresee every potential outcome of every single moment in time and talks about the world like it’s his favorite TV show.

But, when he takes off his wool knit cap, it’s easy to see he ain’t no average wino.

Makeup maestro Rick Baker is dependable as ever giving us a bizarre lineup of aliens, both pleasant and stomach-churning. Of course having Lady Gaga appear in the background as herself means his work is already half done.

It’s one thing to create some weird-looking creatures, but it’s another thing to make them matter. Barry Sonnenfeld’s direction veers away from the approach that made his first “MIB” great and the second … well, watchable.

Going for the big bucks of 3-D is fine, but a movie like this should immerse us in the technology in its entirety, not just offer a smattering of segments that use it heavily.

At least MIB gizmos are as peculiar as ever, with J’s updated neuralyzer — you know, the little flashing memory-eraser — looking like an Apple product compared to K’s obsolete model, which comes complete with a battery pack.

As for the story, it’s not bad for your standard time-travel — sorry, time-jump — scenario, even if the conclusion violates a major entry in the rulebook. Still, it’s good to know that if we ever experience an alteration in the time-space continuum, a glass of chocolate milk will get rid of those headaches.

The number in “Men in Black 3” should tell you all you need to know about why Hollywood wanted to drag out the series, but it’s still a fun enough sequel with some great moments balancing out the lousy ones.

Take K’s advice and always trust in the pie. You may want to avoid his usual selection of a slice of apple topped with a chunk of cheddar.

Now playing at the West Theatre and at Steamboat Springs’ Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

Click here to have the print version of the Craig Daily Press delivered to your home.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.