A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
September 12, 2008 8:13pm EST
As a fan of Saturday Night Live I was thrilled to shoot the breeze with head writer Seth Meyers. Who knew he loved Woody Allen, used to deliver sandwiches or that he’s dying to have Robert Downey Jr. on the show. Read on for more on Meyers.
Hollywood.com: Do find yourself prone to Liz Lemon moments?
Seth Meyers: Absolutely. I think it’s a unique fraternity being head writer of that show, it’s thrilling, it’s exasperating, it’s a lot of pressure, and you only look as good as your writing staff makes you look.
HW: You must eat and sleep jokes 24/7.
SM: No, but I would say your radar is always up. Your antenna is always up for comedy, but at the same time I probably watch drama more than comedy.
HW: Such as …
SM: I’m a big fan of The Wire, which I know is over now and Battlestar Galactica is a big show for me. These are some of my hits [laughs].
HW: You’re eventually going to lose your Weekend Update co-anchor Amy Poehler. Do you have anyone in mind?
SM: No, but I think we will need extra security to keep Brian Williams away from the desk.
HW: Are you just thrilled about her baby news?
SM: I couldn’t be happier…It is always hard to leave SNL and I don’t think she could be leaving for a better reason, motherhood and a great [new] show…I think she’ll make a great mom.
HW: How will you utilize her while she’s still on the show and showing?
SM: I don’t think a few extra pounds are going to make Amy any less funny. She’s so good at generating material with stuff like that, we know at the very least we will have her at the desk and any more she can do for us will be great.
HW: What does Amy’s Emmy nomination as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a comedy series mean for the cast moving forward?
SM: Obviously we got reclassified this year to a more accurate representation of what we do, because I do think that we are sort of supporting actors and we are all thrilled that she got the nomination and hopefully in the future we will get a few more. I know there are a couple of other people who deserve them as well.
HW: Who is on your wish list for hosts this season?
SM: Robert Downey Jr. He’s an old SNL vet and I would love to have him back…Sir Ben Kingsley that’s another person…I would love to spend a week with Sir Ben.
HW: What about musical guests?
SM: I would really like to see a band called The Hold Steady.
HW: Weekend Update alum Jimmy Fallon will soon have his own show on late night. Do you see yourself following in his footsteps? Is it scary to think about doing a show five nights a week?
SM: The idea of doing a show five nights a week is terrifying and daunting, but I think Jimmy is certainly up for it. I think he was a great choice for it. I’m thrilled to do a show once a week for right now. You walk before you run.
HW: Who are some of the comedians that influenced you growing up?
SM: Woody Allen and also Steve Martin and Richard Pryor. That’s who we listened to the most. My parents were big comedy album people. Bob and Ray and then Monty Python was some of the first stuff we watched. All that stuff like from the 60s and 70s my parents were fans of. The Woody Allen stand up comedian album is one of my first comedy albums.
HW: What kind of jobs did you have before getting into the biz?
SM: I worked in a lot of restaurants, waiter, bartender, delivery boy. I delivered subs for D’Angelo’s Sandwich Shop in Manchester, which was a good paying job, but I smelled like onions. That was in high school, which was a real set back.