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Movie Review

Men in Black 3

Men in Black 3
(L-R) Josh Brolin, Michael Stuhlbarg and Will Smith in "Men in Black 3"

Whole star Whole star Whole star
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and brief suggestive content. 1 hour, 44 minutes.
Publication date: May. 25, 2012
Review by Tyler Hanley
Released: (2012)

An eclectic cast and stellar visual effects coalesce to make "Men in Black 3" a quintessential kernel of summer popcorn cinema. Although the uninspired and often formulaic screenplay dampers what could have been a top-notch sci-fi comedy, the film's excellent production team and pantheon of talented actors create an entertaining escapade.

Fans of the first two "Men in Black" films will find this a fitting addition to the quirky, comic-book-based franchise. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reunite as Agent J and Agent K, members of a clandestine government organization charged with keeping tabs on Earth's cornucopia of extraterrestrial visitors (and ensuring the general public remains oblivious to the existence of said out-of-towners).

Willing suspension of disbelief is an important ingredient in enjoying this head-spinning tale. Vile alien baddie Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement of HBO's "Flight of the Conchords") busts out of a lunar-based prison and leaps back in time to 1969 with the goal of killing his captor, Agent K, and sparking a full-blown invasion of Earth. Boris' scheme forces Agent J to venture back to '69 and work alongside Agent K's younger self (Josh Brolin) in hopes of launching a protective energy "net" around Earth and quashing Boris' machinations.

Got all that? No? Don't sweat it -- "Men in Black 3" is fun despite a plot that would dizzy even Isaac Asimov.

Smith is as charismatic and likable as ever, though he seems to be working especially hard this go-round, a testament to the inspired performances delivered by his co-stars. Brolin is fantastic as the young Agent K, nailing Jones' mannerisms without his portrayal ever seeming like mimicry. Clement is a very pleasant surprise as Boris, a vicious alien who looks like a mutated offspring of Predator and one of the "Sons of Anarchy" bikers. Another treat in the acting department is Michael Stuhlbarg ("A Serious Man," HBO's "Boardwalk Empire") as an innocent, clairvoyant alien named Griffin who helps J and K.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld -- a bit out of practice, not having helmed a feature since 2006's jalopy "RV" -- teams with two of the industry's best in Danny Elfman (original music) and Bill Pope (cinematography), lifting the production values to high levels. But the script by "Tropic Thunder" scribe Etan Cohen (among others) is lackluster. Humor focused on the late-'60s time period has an "Austin Powers" familiarity, not unlike the recent Tim Burton release "Dark Shadows."

A sentimental ending borders on sappy but helps bring the "Men in Black" franchise full circle. And while the picture's cartoonish quality dilutes what tension arises, it also ratchets up a sense of unabashed amusement. Enjoy the popcorn.

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