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Men In Black II

You can't beat good chemistry. Jones and Smith have it, the rest of Men in Black 2 regretably does not. It's not that there's anything wrong with MIB2, it's just that we've seen it all before, and at the time it felt much cleverer.

Men In Black 2 stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reprising their roles as Agents Jay and Kay, part of a secret organization known as the Men In Black. Their job? To police, monitor, and control alien activity on earth, while keeping any knowledge of it away from the unsuspecting public. But Kay has retired, had his memory erased, and spends his days sorting mail in a small town post-office where he rules the mail service with an iron clad, no-nonsense fist. Meanwhile, Jay has spent 5 years trying to find a new partner who can measure up… and failing. When Earth is in big trouble, under attack by the alien high priestess Sarleena, Jay has to bring Kay back to unlock the long erased knowledge hidden in his head in order to save the Earth from utter destruction.

Granted, I'm not exactly sure why or how the earth is to be destroyed. There's an opening sequence that suggests Sarleena could do it… if she had the right tools, which she does not. Then there's a lot of mumbo jumbo about this "Light of Zartha" thing causing trouble at the stroke of midnight. Why, what, or how is never really cleared up. Regardless, the movie moves on and remains clever, even if the plot isn't exactly as tight as the last quirky romp of the Men in Black.

The thing that really bugs me about this latest installment though, isn't so much the fuzzy nature of the plot, as the lack of life thrown into the thing. I'm a huge fan of the original, which I'd always thought of as a glowing example of energetic summer fun. But this outing falls limp far to often and rushes through things there's really no reason to hurry on past. The inspired word play between Jay and Kay still sells it, but nothing is quite as unconventional.

Is it just that the novelty of it has worn off? Perhaps. Maybe Men In Black is just one of those movies better off without a sequel. At its core, MIB2 is just a tad more of the same. It's hard to justify making another movie, when there isn't all that much to separate it from the original. Director Barry Sonnenfeld threw in a love interest this time and oh sure, there's some attempt at introducing a role reversal between Jay and Kay, with Kay as a brainwashed rookie and Jay as the hard-nosed agent. Unfortunantly, that reversal lasts only about 5 minutes and Jay's love interest (Rosario Dawson) barely qualifies as a footnote in MIB2's determined journey to it's less than 90-minute conclusion.

So it's a little less exciting, less creative, less quirky than the original. MIB2 is at least still a good spectacle with loads of good fun to be had. Jones and Smith keep it light, airy and funny and the film intentionally avoids doing anything that might be considered distractingly controversial. The villanness Sarleena looks good in lingerie, the laughs are strong, and the FX as mind blowing as ever.

Hey, even Tony Shalub and that damn talking pug Frank throw in some great giggles. Shalub in a particular is a favorite of mine who never seems to get credit. At least in MIB he's got a role that people will finally remember. The rest is basically a throwaway, though Patrick Wharburton is hilarious until he gets prematurely de-neuralized.

The bloom is off the rose and what was once cool, hip, and in style isn't exactly as new and quirky as it used to be. Sonnenfeld still sells it with flair though, and it's hard to deny the continued fun of the MIB fling. If, like me you're a fan of the original, you'll be delighted to see your favorite pair of black suited protectors' back in action. Sadly, like the ultimate de-neurolizer, this second Men In Black will likely be forgotten in a flash of light.