‘Men In Black 3:’ The Reviews Are In!

Third film in the franchise sees Agents K and J time-traveling to 1969, but is it worth a trip to the theater?
By Kara Warner

Will Smith in "Men in Black 3"
Photo: Columbia Pictures

Can you believe it's already been 15 years since we first met Agents K (Tommy Lee Jones) and new-recruit-turned-agent J (Will Smith)? Time flies, even when the subject of fictional time travel is at play. "Men in Black" debuted to rave reviews back in 1997 and its filmmakers and stars are hoping for the same warm welcome at the box office this weekend when "Men in Black 3" rolls into theaters.

The film is currently sitting pretty at a 65 percent "Fresh" rating over at Rotten Tomatoes, complemented by an enthusiastic 95 percent of the audience rating it as a "Want to See It" movie this weekend. So without further ado, let's blast off through the "Men in Black 3" reviews!

Everything Old Is New Again ... and Put Through the Ringer
"Perhaps the best that can be said for the years-in-the-works 'Men in Black 3' is that its prolonged, difficult development rarely leaves visible scars on the finished product. This is no small compliment, as subjecting the franchise's zippy cornball energy to committee rethink and patchwork solutions could have been toxic, and the sequel survives with the original's spirit largely intact. ... There are a number of conflicting points to consider in assessing the pic's commercial potential. In Will Smith, it toplines one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, albeit one who hasn't made a single film in four years. Moreover, the film is part of a property that grossed more than $350 million at the U.S. box office alone, yet 10 years have passed since the last installment — the limp "Men in Black II" — and it's unclear just how strong the interest is for an encore. But that's all ultimately a problem for Sony's marketing department. For their parts, director Barry Sonnenfeld and scripter Etan Cohen approach the material in a strangely low-key manner, as though this were merely a midseason episode of a long-running series, rather than a comeback after a decade away. This serves the movie well, however, as it's clear the filmmakers aren't simply expecting to coast on audience goodwill." — Andrew Barker, Variety

The Time-Space Continuum
"To move forward, the story jumps backwards — to the summer of 1969, when the Mets were destined to win the World Series and astronauts were preparing to walk on the moon. The first time 1969 came around, K put the Mad Max-ish alien known as Boris the Animal (a tasty role for Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement) in prison. Now, some 40 years later, Boris has busted out of the clink — on the moon, by the way — and slipped through the space-time continuum back to 1969, intent on killing K. So MIB's present-day chief, O (Emma Thompson), dispatches Agent J to do a quick job of tinkering with history, safeguarding the world, and rescuing his partner, all without getting trapped in 1969 for good. This is a winning plan for a lot of reasons, beginning with the axiom that, as the crew of the USS Enterprise demonstrated in 'Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home' back in ancient 1986, it's always fun when fancy folks from the sci-fi future are forced to fumble with the less elegant technology of the past. Working with a model screenplay by Etan Cohen (who co-wrote the brilliant 'Tropic Thunder'), MIB's auteur director Barry Sonnenfeld captures the nostalgic hopefulness of the era." — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

Brolin as Tommy Lee Jones
"Brolin's [performance] is a feat of egolessness in which one actor completely subsumes himself into the style and sound of another. The performance works as an optical illusion: Our eye sees Brolin, but our brain is fooled into seeing Agent K and, through him, the craggy, beloved Jones made youthful again. 'Men in Black 3' is essentially a bait-and-switch — a movie that promises one star and delivers another — but because the imposture is so well-crafted, so serenely inventive, we accept the bargain. As far as the studio sees it, everybody wins: Tommy Lee Jones gets a paycheck and a vacation, while the young audiences of America are spared the horror of spending 106 minutes with an old person." — Ty Burr, The Boston Globe

The Final Word, Pro-Con-Pro Style
"Apart from the urgent necessity of reminding us that Will Smith is a movie star (and the usual need to wring a few more dollars out of a profitable franchise), 'Men in Black 3' arrives in the multiplexes of the world with no particular agenda. Which may be part of the reason it turns out to be so much fun. You don't need to study up on the previous installments or master a body of bogus fanboy lore to enjoy this movie for the breezy pop throwaway it is. Your expectations may be pleasantly low, and you may therefore be pleasantly surprised when they are exceeded. ... The first two 'Men in Black' movies did some spoofing of the conventions of the black and white, cross-generational buddy picture, but the third one finds its way back to the heart of the genre. It manages, in the end, to be touching as well as hectic and whimsical, and to send a few interesting thematic bubbles into the air, having to do with lost fathers, obscure regrets and racial reconciliation." — A.O. Scott, The New York Times

"As good as Brolin is, though, the novelty wears off quickly, and we're once again left with the realization that there's no substance to the script (credited, for the record, to Etan Cohen). And all the familiar and rather flat comic elements lead up to a revelatory climax that comes out of nowhere and in no way earns the sort of heartrending emotion it aims to evoke from its audience. But the most disappointing part of all: Frank the talking pug is nowhere to be found. The movie is a dog anyway without him." — Christy Lemire, The Associated Press

"Let me say that although I liked the first 'MiB' movie, I wasn't particularly looking forward to this belated sequel. But I had fun. It has an ingenious plot, bizarre monsters, audacious cliff-hanging, and you know what? A closing scene that adds a new and sort of touching dimension to the characters of J and K." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

Check out everything we've got on "Men in Black 3."

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