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Men in Black II
2002 - PG-13 - 140 Mins.
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Producer: Walter F Parkes, Laurie MacDonald
Written By: Barry Fanaro, Robert Gordon
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Lara Flynn Boyle, Johnny Knoxville, Michael Jackson
Review by: David Trier
   
Slightly less creative but certainly as entertaining, MiB II satisfies all the requirements of a sequel - it pays homage to its origins in a self-referential way and teaches us more about the characters we already know while they do essentially the same things they did in the first film. With some quick-witted jokes, the Men in Black get another bite at box office success, a veritable chomp really, which makes for an entertaining yet uninspiring 85 minutes.

When we last left them, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) had his mind blanked and went on to live a simple life, void of alien warfare. Now Agent J (Will Smith) is top dog, making sure aliens don't break the rules that allow them to stay on Earth. But Jay is lonely, having to blank out the minds of everyone that witnesses him save them from aliens. Poor Jay. Thank goodness alien bitch Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) returns to Earth in search of a powerful "light" that only Kay can locate. So Jay must bring Kay back into the MiB and defeat the evil Serleena, protecting the Earth and hopefully scoring some serious booty (Rosario Dawson).

MiB is unfortunately a difficult movie to regurgitate. The original film, while not always up to par in the joke department, was mostly enjoyable because of its consistent novelty. The very thought that an agency exists that monitors and controls alien activity on Earth was a new idea to us. We learn all about the MiB and how, where and why they work. At the same time, we learn a little about each of the lead characters and hope that they will one day get along. MiB II can't offer us any of this and therefore comes off as a bit redundant. We already know all about what they do, what kind of weapons they use and the whole deal that aliens live among us.

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones both deliver the same amusing performances, although Jones shows a little more wear and tear and Smith is still hard to take seriously after playing Ali. Lara Flynn Boyle comes off as very comfortable in her evil little role, but unfortunately her character is a fairly stock one. Likewise for Johnny Knoxville, who plays an amusing two-headed moron, but is more interesting as an FX gimmick than an actual character. Just about stealing the show, Frank the dog, who had a small part in the original (voice by Tim Blaney), is very funny and is blessed with some of the best one-liners in the film. Rosario Dawson is very appealing (not to mention easy on the eyes) as the love interest, but it's hard to believe the character would take the reality of her circumstances so smoothly. On the other hand, this is a comic-book movie and depth of character is a bonus, not a prerequisite. The always-interesting Tony Shalhoub reprises his role as Jeebs. Dorky but brilliant comic David Cross has a fun supporting role and they'd be foolish not to bring him back in the next sequel. Patrick Warburton does his same shtick from Seinfeld and The Tick, playing a dimwitted agent, but it's a funny shtick. One of the funniest gags in the original was the revelation that various celebrities are aliens (one of whom was Newt Gingrich, if I recall - an astute observation). There should have been more of them in this film, but bravo to Michael Jackson for his charming cameo in which he pleads with Rip Torn to become an agent. It takes a big man to recognize and publicly acknowledge that Earth is not his birthplace.

The film also features some new aliens, a few of whom are interesting to look at. But a group of loudmouthed worms and a giant, uh, worm that lives in the subway are a little stale and annoying (not necessarily in that order). Among the most innovative are a group of tiny aliens that live in Kay's locker in Grand Central Station, believing that to be the universe and Jay to be God. This is a reference to the original's entertaining idea that size is all relative in physics. The special effects, although ever-present, making up the bulk of the film, are as impressive and occasionally more impressive than in the original. Rick Baker provides some fascinating make-up effects and we expect no less from the man that brought us the definitive werewolf in An American Werewolf in London. And the always-reliable ILM brings us all sorts of fun computerized alien gimmicks.

The script is pretty consistently funny, but otherwise formulaic and uninspiring. I didn't fully understand the conflict of the story but at least I enjoyed watching it unfold. MiB II is "great" if you're looking for entertainment that's only "OK" when compared to the original, which was only "good" at best. MiB II is funnier, but lacks the sci-fi creativity that made the first one so appealing
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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