out of Five
Running time: 105
Enjoyable sequel with an engaging plot and superb performances from Smith and Brolin, but it's not quite as funny as it should have been and certain scenes seem to have mysteriously gone missing.
What's it all about?
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, Men In Black 3 is the third instalment in the popular, if admittedly intermittent franchise (five years between the first two films, ten years between the sequels). After vicious criminal Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes from a high security lunar prison, Agent J (Will Smith) awakes to find himself in a world where his partner, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) was killed in 1969. Together with new boss Agent O (Emma Thompson), J realises that K defeated Boris in the past and that he must have travelled back in time and killed him, so J travels back to 1969 to try and stop both versions of Boris before they can kill K (now played by Josh Brolin).
Smith is his usual, immensely likeable self and he has strong chemistry with both Jones and Brolin, while Clement is excellent as Boris the Animal (“It's just Boris!”) and there's strong support from Michael Stuhlbarg as an alien who can see multiple alternate realities at once. The nature of the plot means that Jones is more or less side-lined this time, but Brolin is so note-perfect as the younger (and happier) K, that it almost feels like you really are watching a 1960s version of Tommy Lee Jones.
The plot is engaging, allowing for a couple of nice ideas along the way, such as Andy Warhol (Bill Hader) being an undercover Men in Black agent. Similarly, the finale is both genuinely exciting and packs an unexpectedly emotional punch, while the 3D effects are actually pretty good throughout, notably in an aerial pass over New York's Chrysler Building and various shots from the top of the Apollo 11 rocket in 1969.
The main problem with the film is that it's not nearly as funny as it should have been, as if they filmed the wrong version of the script, before the “comedy guy” came in and had a go at it. In particular, although the Warhol gag is inspired, the film largely fails to exploit the potential of its 1960s setting and doesn't even have that much fun with the costumes.
On top of that, both Emma Thompson and Alice Eve (as the 1960s version of Agent O) are completely wasted and it's impossible to watch without concluding that there was a romantic subplot between O and K that got cut, as entire scenes seem to be missing. Also, Will Arnett makes a promising comic appearance as J's partner in the K-less alternate reality, but he's only there for one scene.
A considerable improvement over its 2002 predecessor, MiB3 is an entirely watchable threequel thanks to an engaging plot and strong performances from Smith and Brolin.