Some movies are made to be franchises; some aren't. Sometimes bad franchises
produce surprisingly good films, in was the case with Exorcist III; more
often, though, a concept that seems like it should produce a never-ending string
of no-brain hits spawns a disaster. Comic films have been the worst offenders
in this category: the later Batman films, the last two Superman
movies, and now Men In Black II. As rich and promising as the core concept
is—think Lethal Weapon with a sci-fi twist—the execution is
far from flawless.
As was the case the first time around, the film is centered on the near mythic
Men in Black, the government agency so secretive that they are barely aware
of their own existence. Their job is to hunt down alien life on Earth, keeping
the good ETs secret and the bad ETs gone. As might be predicted, hilarity ensues.
It's not as though the cast and crew aren't up to the job, but the hilarity
in MIIB doesn't do a lot of ensuing. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith (love
him or hate him) make a fantastic team of straight man and joker, both on paper
and in the original; Tony Shaloub is a fine actor with great comedic timing;
and heaven knows that Rip Torn is the king of dry and slightly charbroiled wit.
Sadly, you wouldn't know much of this watching the new film. Part of it is the
script; largely, though, it seems more like the actors and director are to blame.
The problem is that everyone involved seems like they're there for no reason
at all. The entire affair comes off as—well, not even halfhearted; more
like half-assed, really. The funny lines are as passionless as the the straight;
Tommy Lee Jones carries himself as though he were really irritated at being
dragged out of retirement, and Will Smith seems to have wanted to join him.
Even Lara Flynn Boyle, normally a natural at playing a cruel, icy villainess,
comes across like she'd rather be in court.
This might all be forgivable if there was anything at all of significance about
the movie, but sadly, there's not. The plot is predictable—alien life on
earth is bad, and it's up to the heroes to save the day, with lots of alien
run-ins along the way. The special effects are not bad, but nothing impressive
in this day and age of digital miracles. The score, the script, the editing,
the entire production—there's nothing here to cause so much as a stir in
the audience. It's not a film to walk out of, but it certainly won't keep you
glued to your seat.
Perhaps the ultimate tragedy is that a huge budget was spent, and a great cast
and crew gathered, just to put together an ultimately uninspired and forgettable
package. The teaser might have been altered a bit to truly capture the feel:
"Same planet. New Scum. Might as well rent the DVD." Just remember,
on your way in—all those people you see walking out with the zombie-like
stare, the ones who look like they've just been hit with the memory-stealing
Neuralizer from the movie? That'll be you in about an hour and a half.