Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return as the hip alien busters inlifeless Men In Black II. While not as horrific as the lastcollaboration between Smith and director Barry Sonnenfeld, 1999’s WildWild West, MIB 2 is nonetheless the longest 88 minutes you mightsit through this summer.
The plot has an alien named Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) coming to Earthin search of something called “The Light”. If it’s not found within a matterof days, the planet is done for. The person who holds the key to the Light’swhereabouts is former MIB agent Kay (Jones), whose memory and identity werewiped clean at the end of the first film by his partner, Jay (Smith). SinceKay is now needed in order to stop Serleena, Jay locates him working as aPostal worker on Cape Cod and brings him back into the world of policingextraterrestrials.
The 1997 original may have been nothing more than Ghostbusters innice suits wiping out aliens instead of ghosts, but at least you walked awayboth entertained and with the impression that everyone was involved wasthere for something other than quick cash. The concept was nicely developed,the energy level was buoyant without being exhaustive and most importantly,the chemistry between leads Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith worked like afine-tuned machine. Nothing majestic, just a lot of good fun.
So, with most of the same people returning for the sequel, you have toask yourself what went wrong. To be fair, the film does have its merits. Ithas great production design by Bo Welch, Rick Baker’s makeup is superb asalways and the visual effects by Industrial Light and Magic are solid if abit ordinary. There is no question that MIB 2 was a costly affair.
But for all the money spent, MIB 2 is lifeless and rather dull.Place a lot of the blame on the collection of notes passed off as the screenplay by RobertGordon (who also wrote the very funny Galaxy Quest).There isn’t enough story to fill an episode of the half-hour MIBanimated series. A few jokes do work, but the majority of them are as flatas the piece of paper they were written on. As far as character development,don’t bother looking. It’s not there.
Director Barry Sonnenfeld and his cast should be held accountable as wellfor the film’s failure. Sonnenfeld’s directing is strictly on autopilothere, displaying none of the wit and talent that he instilled upon the firstMIB, Get Shorty and Addams Family Values. He zipsthrough scenes at breakneck speed, presenting a type of frenetic pacingobviously meant to cover up the scant storyline and characters. You have towonder if Jay and Kay used one of their neuralyzers on both Sonnenfeld andGordon before filming began.
Someone may have used one of those gizmos on Will Smith and Tommy LeeJones as well. They look bored, their banter feeling about as fresh asmonth-old milk. Lara Flynn Boyle and Rosario Dawson, as Smith’s loveinterest, are given very little to do. Ditto Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub andPatrick Warburton while Johnny Knoxville, of MTV’s Jackass, is simplyobnoxious as Serleena’s dimwitted alien sidekick, Scrad. Whoever gave thisyahoo the idea he was an actor is the real jackass.
Men In Black II is a big disappointment. Much like another specialeffects comedy sequel, 1989’s Ghostbusters II, a promising franchiseis shot to hell by lackadaisical work by a cast and crew who only showed upin search of some quick cash. It’s not the worst film to sit through rightnow (Windtalkers and Scooby Doo are still playing), but itcertainly is light years away from being the best.
Let’s hope this is the last we see of Jay and Kay on the big screen.