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Arts and Entertainment

Time to close down ‘MIB’ franchise
Third installment idles to the finish
Published Thursday, May 24, 2012 7:17 am
by Dwight Brown

It’s been ten years since Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones donned their black suits, cool sunglasses and glib hipness to play Agent J and Agent K — the good guys who try to save the world from weird looking aliens. Should they have left well enough alone? Have they harmed their legacy? Yes and maybe.

Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) is marooned on a penal colony on the moon. He escapes, comes back to earth and tries to undo the day K shot off his arm. To do that he goes back in time with plans to kill off K. One day J realizes that K is missing and none of his fellow agents believe that K was ever his partner as the older gent died 40 years ago. Only Agent O (Emma Thompson) has a clue.  So it is up to J to go back to 1969 and thwart Boris’ hit on K, who in his younger form (Josh Brolin), can’t figure out who the hell J is.

The script, as written by Etan Cohen, gives a back-story to J and K’s relationship, endowing the characters with depth. You learn why K is so sullen and J so attached to him. That’s cool, but it hardly provides enough fodder for an engaging, one-hour-45-minute script. The one-liners fly like rain from the clouds, but few are truly funny.  Smith’s shtick about a black man and a stolen car makes race an issue in a movie that shouldn’t broach the subject. It’s a shallow sci-fi comedy, so why bother?

Director Barry Sonnefeld, the captain for all three of the episodes, has hit the creative bottom of his bag of tricks. Not one gimmick, not one action scene, not one special effect screams “Wow!” In fact the visuals are so lame and dated they look like oh-so-yesterday “Back to The Future” rejects. The grotesque fish, the weird headed people, a do-or-die fight at a space ship launching in 1969—none of it seems original, daring, new or exciting. The footage is in 3D, but nothing pops out at you.

Lacking the focus of an inventive plotline, compelling direction or special effects, attention turns to Smith, Jones and Brolin. Brolin’s wicked imitation of a young agent K is spot on. Jones, meanwhile, seems on automatic control. And Smith, who is starting to look like a middle-aged man, comes off subservient as the “boyish sidekick” with a father complex. He doesn’t feel like a leading man, more like Robin to Batman or Little John to Robin Hood. This is the guy who carried the film “I Am Legend” with one hand tied behind his back. “MIB3” takes his career backwards. It’s not as hideous of a choice as “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” but this reincarnated role seems beneath him.

By the film’s end, the plotting draws to a close, with several “Ah-hah” moments. Treasure the memory of the first “MIB,” be patient with this one. Let’s give Smith, Jones and Sonnefeld a pass for going back to the well one too many times. But if they go for a MIB4, the pity party is over.

Visit National Newspaper Publishers Association film critic Dwight Brown at www.DwighBrownInk.com.


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