Review in a Hurry: When his partner K is erased from history, Agent J must time travel to 1960s New York to save him and prevent an alien invasion. The series returns with great eye candy, good 3-D and more sci-fi comedy hijinks. Will Smith is funny, but Josh Brolin as young Agent K is so exceptional at mimicking the tight-lipped Tommy Lee Jones that he steals the show. If only the story had unforgettable moments. Or have we been neuralized?
The Bigger Picture: After nearly a decade since the mediocre sequel, Agent J (Smith) and Agent K (Jones) zapping gooey aliens at a restaurant in Chinatown rocks. They're still a great duo. But the death of their boss Zed leaves J wondering just how well he and his partner K really know each other. After 14 years, not very well at all. Next, J wakes up to the news that K was murdered in 1969. But why can J still remember him? The answer dampens the otherwise thrilling last act.
The bulk of the film takes place in 1969 with J chasing "Boris the Animal" (Jemaine Clement), who is so powerful he's been locked up on the moon for 40 years. Boris' prison escape is all comin' at ya 3-D. The extra dimension is doubly impressive considering the 3-D was post-converted.
The script by Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder) has fun riffing the '60s, the space race and the realization that Andy Warhol is not an alien.
The casting of Flight of the Conchords' Clement as Boris is a wasted opportunity. He's short one arm (young K shot the other) and spews icky insect-y poison darts from the remaining one. Which is fine, but was there really no time to let Clement make the character his own? Perhaps with a show-stopping musical number?
Without a strong villain, this installment never quite solidifies.
Still, the strongest element is the casting. Besides Brolin—it can't be stressed enough that he is really terrific—there's the reliable Emma Thompson as the new MiB boss. Also excellent is Michael Stuhlbarg (Hugo) as an alien named Griff who exists in multiple dimensions at the same time. Like a superfan of a television show, he's always wondering if each moment with J & K is the one where everyone gets killed...or eats pie. His scenes with J and K are the film's highlights.
Bo Welch's fantastic production and Danny Elfman's score have done well under director Barry Sonnenfeld. While MiB 3 does underwhelm compared to the original 1997 flick, this is a much better effort than Men In Black 2.