Even though it’s been ten years since the last “Men In Black” movie gave us a Burger King in MIB HQ, Frank the Pug in a suit, and Johnny Knoxville’s second talking head, the stink of the second movie in the series hung around just long enough to make the possibility of another one seem like more of a threat. And as news trickled out about “Men In Black 3”–Tommy Lee Jones was getting sidelined for most of the movie, chief among the problems–every indication was that we were headed for another disaster.
But this time traveling plot, which sees Will Smith’s Agent J hurtle back to 1969 to save his partner and the timeline, doesn’t just get the series back to its roots, but ends up being… touching?
After one-armed criminal Boris the Animal (Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement) escapes from a lunar prison, the already brittle relationship between J and K starts to deteriorate as it becomes clear that there’s something the senior agent is holding back about the alien escapee. But before J can coax some answers out of his partner, Boris erases K from history, forcing J to hop back to 1969 to prevent K’s murder and prevent an alien invasion by tentacled spaceships. All J has to do is go back in time (in a wonderfully inventive sequence), kill Boris, avoid the younger version of K (Josh Brolin), and get back to 2012–so what could go wrong?
First off, the obvious: Josh Brolin’s great here as the younger K as is the late 6’s version of the Men In Black and New York. Brolin’s K has a lighter touch than his older counterpart, easy with his smile and sweet on junior agent 0 (Alice Eve) and around the margins, we start to realize something really horrible is coming that will shake K so much that it’s closed him off in the future. Plus, “Boardwalk Empire” and “A Serious Man” star Michael Stuhlbarg has a sweet and funny part as an alien blessed and cursed with the ability to see into all variations of time–he holds the secret to 1969 J and K’s mission and that it might be a success, but could still end badly for them.
That’s where “Men In Black 3” ends up being so effective and so touching: the movie treads takes its time to make the characters feel like people this time out. Whereas J and K felt like the two bickering halves of a comedy duo in the second movie, we get to see some of the roundabout, sad friendship they’ve developed over 15 years, and a late-movie reveal provides a gut-punch discovery that changes what we know about the characters (you’ll either roll your eyes or get choked up… what, it’s dusty in here).
That’s not to say the movie’s not very, very funny with all-around strong performances–Smith holds back on the mugging this time out, settling into a groove with both Jones and Brolin. Clement’s Boris is an odd invention: a snarling alpha predator with a grudge against K who’s both suave and primal (and in one of the film’s few dumb bits, he hates being called “Animal”). Emma Thompson has another small, somewhat thankless role as the present-day leader of MIB, but like Will Arnett and Bill Hader, she does very good work in her few scenes.
It’s weird to find myself writing an extended love note to a “Men In Black” movie, but it’s just that good. With a great, big, heart, plus some very good writing (two bits about the problems of being a black man in 1969 New York are standouts), make it worth seeing.
Special Features and Presentation
It’s a 3D Blu from Sony, so you know “Men In Black 3” is going to be packed with content.
First off, let’s talk about the 3D which is fine, but beyond the Empire State Building jump, doesn’t add much to the movie overall. Director Barry Sonnefeld goes for a glossy, well-lit look here, so the visual elements stand out (particularly the sometimes busy CG), so there’s a decent amount of depth-of-field stuff here but nothing that you’re likely to remember. Still if you’re looking to explore the 3D disc, it includes “The Case of Boris the Animal: The 3D Models of ’Men In Black 3′” which is like a visual database of renders of some of the special effects and CG props from the film, which brief narration detailing how each fits into the movie universe. “Converting to 3D” (1:31, HD, 3D) is a short featurette detailing the 3D post-conversion process for the film.
The 2D Blu-ray includes three featurettes–“The Evolution of Cool: MIB 1960 vs. Today,” “Keeping It Surreal: The Visual FX of MIB 3,” and “Partners In Crime: The Making Of MIB 3.” There’s also the “Spot the Alien” shooting gallery game, four “Scene Investigations” highlighting scenes from the film, and a VFX progression reel.
“Partners In Crime,” a gag reel, and a pretty terrible Pitbull music video are on the Blu as well as the included DVD.
“Men In Black 3” is available on 3D and 2D Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD from Sony Home Pictures Entertainment.