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.
At 63 Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson) has everything every guy wants: Money power and hordes of women under 30 throwing themselves at him. His current flame is Marin (Amanda Peet) whose mom famous Broadway playwright Erica Barry (Diane Keaton) has a sweet beach house in the Hamptons. The May-December couple has a romantic weekend in mind when they take the Long Island Expressway out to mom's fancy shack but their plans change when her high-strung mom and feminist aunt Zoe (Frances McDormand) turn up there too catching Harry raiding the fridge in his briefs. After such inauspicious beginnings it's not surprising that Harry and Erica are at each other's throats and shortly thereafter the stress gets to Harry and his ticker gives out. After consulting with hottie local doc Julian Mercer (Keanu Reeves) the crew decides that Harry unable to travel will have to recuperate in the Hamptons and Erica gets stuck taking care of the reluctant patient in her home while trying to write her new play. It all gets complicated when Erica and Harry start to fall for each other Marin breaks it off with Harry and Julian gets a yen to play doctor with Erica.
A deliciously well-cast romp Something's Gotta Give offers the versatile Keaton a sexy funny role--something that's no doubt hard for a woman over 30 to find in a town like Hollywood where lipo-sucked hips puffed lips tucked tummies and bouncy boobs tend to get more screen time than intelligent successful fiftysomething women whose brains are their biggest asset. Keaton runs with the opportunity proving that post-menopausal women can still be sexy and turning in what may be her best comic performance since Annie Hall. If her character is just the tiniest bit familiar she makes up for it with impeccable timing and great delivery of the film's generally smart dialogue. For once Nicholson's performance is enhanced by sharing the screen with an actress instead of the other way around; Keaton is every bit a match for his legendary talent and often commands more attention than he does. Still when the movie falls a bit flat and it occasionally does it's in the chemistry between the Nicholson and Keaton--she and Reeves make a much sexier onscreen couple. McDormand is formidable and funny as Erica's sister Zoe but her character regrettably all but disappears after the first act. Peet and Reeves don't have much to do comically compared to their older counterparts but they do well playing it straight against the rest of the outrageous cast.
Director/writer/producer Nancy Meyers is known for making films like this one with strong female characters. From her first producing/writing effort with Private Benjamin in 1980 to 2000's What Women Want which she produced Meyers' choice of films has changed with the times but stayed true to her primary focus--intelligent comedies with great roles for women. If her 1998 directorial debut with The Parent Trap remake could have been better chosen she's redeemed herself with Something's Gotta Give. Women everywhere especially those of a certain age will find in this film at last a love story that makes sense--and moviegoers around the country should be thrilled to see Nicholson finally get wise and hook up with somebody his own age.