You know… for a long time, I loved everything that Will Smith did. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because he plays the same character in every time, or at least he did until the Legend of Bagger Vance and Ali came along. Smith was always the wise-cracking dude, who kept bumbling and stumbling into situations until they just magically turned out right for him. He wasn’t a strong character… he was more like Abbott and Costello than like Schwarzenegger or Stallone. In short, he was a joke that I had watched over and over again, but sometimes, those jokes deserve to be revisited, and Men in Black is one movie that’s worth a watch.
Smith plays James Edwards, a New York cop who stumbles upon some weirdness. While he is being debriefed at his police station, a crusty dude in a suit shows up and liberates him from his predicament. He is then shown the wonders of the world by K, the mysterious Man in Black. It turns out aliens are real, and K is part of a secret government agency designed to keep their existence from being revealed to the public online. K recruits James into the order, stripping him of his identity, just in time to fight an inter-galactic crisis. Along the way, James, now simply known as J, will meet strange aliens, endure the tacit dry-ness of his partner K, and fight an evil alien bug for control of the galaxy. He’ll also wear sunglasses and crack jokes all the time, which will become tiresome to watch every now and then.
Director Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams Family, Addams Family Values)does some fantastic work. First up, the pairing of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith is pure genius. Sonnenfeld’s ability to get the two to work together creates a clever duo that is perfectly flavored. Visually, the movie is typically quirky, which is a hallmark of Sonnenfeld’s earlier work. The imagery pops with that Hollywood vibrancy that can only exist on film, and the pacing is perfect. All around, Men in Black is some nice work from Sonnenfeld, and it’s easily the highlight of his career.
Of course, Sonnenfeld could direct his own pants off, and without the free services of Will Smith (Ali, Independence Day) and Tommy Lee Jones (Bad Moon Rising, No Country for Old Men), none of it would even matter. Jones is perfect as the crusty K, an old school dude trapped in a new school world. Jones’ wise old man schtick combined with his dry humor are the perfect compliment to Smith’s abrasive and loud humor. Linda Fiorentino (Dogma, Jade) makes an excellent third wheel, as the leggy mortician. Rip Torn (Dodgeball, Down Periscope) provides nice supporting wallop as Zed.
Of course, if there’s one thing working in Men in Black’s favor, it’s all the crazy aliens that show up. You’ve got a talking dog, a rubber-faced jewel seller, cockroaches, and chain-smoking, coffee-swilling creeps, in addition to all of the other little bits of aliens on display. A good majority of the effects and alien designs are accomplished with practical effects, which in the hands of Rick Baker are typically awesome. There are also some CGI effects in there… which aren’t so awesome. The last scene brings the full movie down a peg.
Overall, Men in Black is one of the more tolerable family-oriented films of the last twenty years. It has a little something from everyone. You want crusty dry humor, then you’ve got K. You want brash, bold humor, then you’ve got J. You just want to watch a bunch of goo and stupid humor, well that’s in there too.
It’s a good movie with plenty of laughs. If you have kids or you like goofy movies, you should probably watch Mein In Black online free.