The Men in Black, a top-secret organization protecting Earth from aliens, returns in “Men in Black 3.” Director Barry Sonnenfeld also returns for the third installment of the sci-fi action/comedy, based on the comic book series by Lowell Cunningham. Will Smith stars as Agent J, who became the partner of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) way back in the series’ first installment, in 1997.
In the new film, the alien criminal Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes confinement and travels back in time to prevent Agent K from apprehending him in 1969. Boris is a mass-murderer with eyes on further destruction: He wants to lead his hostile race of ravaging aliens to Earth, where it will be their latest conquest.
When the timeline changes, Agent J must also time-travel, back to the early days of the Men in Black program in 1969, to stop Boris from killing Agent K.
He meets the younger Agent K, played by Josh Brolin, and is coerced into revealing the truth to him. The two agents must work together to stop both Borises — the one from 1969 and now the one from 2012 — to keep the earth from being invaded.
Brolin is outstanding as the young K — his mannerisms and method of speaking are eerily similar to Tommy Lee Jones as K. Brolin’s K has a little more hope, a little less world-weariness, but clearly appears as the same gruff, gravelly agent.
Smith plays Agent J with the same smooth cockiness he brought to two previous installments. Even if “MIB 3” sees Smith and Jones going through the motions to some degree, they have the motions down. With this being Smith’s first film since 2008, there’s some joy simply in seeing the one-time summer box office champ return to the silver screen. And by making Smith’s J travel back in time to 1969, J is still the audience’s entry point to a strange new world. In this case, that strange new world is the 1960s (With aliens, admittedly.).
Michael Stuhlbarg (“Boardwalk Empire,” “Hugo”) plays the wise yet childlike alien Griffin, who can see the various timelines that the agents could cause by their actions. Emma Thompson plays Agent O, the new head of Men in Black, and Alice Eve plays the 1969 version of O. Tulsa’s Bill Hader has a brief but funny appearance as Andy Warhol.
The time-travel elements will make your head hurt if you think about them too long, but the script keeps things moving quickly to prevent that from happening, at least while the film is rolling. The effects and design are great, and the 3-D is actually not distracting, for theatergoers who choose that option.
With “MIB3,” the franchise improves from the misstep of “Men in Black II,” but doesn’t surpass the original. Overall, “MIB 3” is a fizzy summer concoction with some refreshingly familiar flavors.
— Matthew Price
From Friday’s The Oklahoman
“Men in Black 3”
PG-13 /1:46 /2 ½ stars
Starring: Will Smith, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Jemaine Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg
(Sci-fi action violence and brief suggestive content.)