PG – Action, Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi
In theaters now
“Men In Black” is a very tired franchise. Twenty-two years, and three average sequels, removed from the original film starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, “Men In Black: International” has descended from the night skies without a single clever or original idea to justify its existence. After botching their attempt at relaunching “Ghostbusters” in 2016 and starting a new film universe with Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” (2017), both failures, I can only assume Sony Pictures was in dire need of a successful franchise other than “Spider-Man,” (which they have to share with Marvel) when they green-lit this mess.
The first three films starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as an action/sci-fi version of “The Odd Couple.” The casting of both was perfection. The dry delivery of Jones played well with Smith’s outgoing comedic instinct. If this reboot teaches us anything, it’s that the charisma and star power of Will Smith cannot be underestimated. Both he and Mr. Jones are sorely missed here.
This time the keys to the mysteries of the universe have been handed over to Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thomson (Agent’s H and M, respectively) who, as the Men in Black, have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.
If the threat seems a bit drab, you’d be right. Heroes are only as good as their villains, and this movie doesn’t really bother having one. The “mole” in the MIB is predictable and doesn’t pose any serious threat to anyone, let alone the universe. I miss ideas like the one used in the first film, when a giant cockroach was using a decomposing farmers corpse as a disguise while plotting to destroy the galaxy. Boy, those were the days.
Hemsworth and Thompson are two wonderful actors that have made big names for themselves, both in the Marvel universe and in other notable films the last few years. They are completely wasted here: Hemsworth by portraying an arrogant, Ferris Bueller-like character who skates by on his good looks, but ultimately doesn’t do much of anything to justify his high standing in the mysterious organization, and Thompson by giving everything she’s got to make an interesting character out of a terrible and clichè script. Both deserve better.
The film is helmed by F. Gary Gray, who’s a very talented filmmaker, directing the likes of “Friday,” ”Set It Off,” “The Negotiator,” and “Straight Outta Compton.” That list alone shows he has the comedy/action chops for a film like this. I don’t know what happened.
Perhaps it was the screenplay by Matt Holloway and Art Marcum. Their credits include “Transformers: The Last Knight,” “Punisher: War Zone,” and “Iron Man.” The first two are certainly not good barometers of their talents. I guess they have “Iron Man” to showcase their skills, though there were several cooks in that kitchen to help that original Marvel Universe movie see the light of day. Regardless, their screenplay here is eye-rolling, cliche and frankly, dull.
That’s the word that best explains this new MIB film. Dull. As the minutes ticked on my mind started to wander. I thought about my two and a half year old that I am missing time with to be here. I considered the new “Ghostbusters” 35th Anniversary 4K Blu Ray set sitting at home waiting for me to review, and I wondered if the Golden State Warriors can pull off a miracle and force a Game 7, and perhaps win this unprecedented NBA Finals. I thought about everything else except for the film in front of me, because I’ve seen it all done before with more energy, originality and joy. When the most interesting character is a CGI chess piece, it’s time to pack it in.
The original “Men In Black” was about 90 minutes long. Say what you will about the flick, but it knew when to get the hell out of there. At almost two hours, “Men In Black: International” feels like an unbearable test of patience.