Men In Black 2

Men In Black 2 revisits the fanciful world created by the original film inhabited by stoic men in black suits, incredible aliens and creative weapons

The sequel, the main stay of Hollywood, has changed over the years. At first it was used to extend the story, to fulfill the desire of the audience to know more about the characters portrayed in the first film. Now it seems that the main reason for making a sequel is the first movie made a ton of money. In some rare cases the sequel meets the standards of quality set by the original. Films like the Godfather and Alien have had successful sequels that stand on their own as excellent films. Other films like the famous slasher movies have sequel after sequel for the sole purpose of generating income for the studios. In the middle ground of these two extremes lie films such as Men in Black 2.

Men In Black 2 revisits the fanciful world created by the original film inhabited by stoic men in black suits, incredible aliens and creative weapons. The story follows ‘J’ (Will Smith), now a senior field agent for Men In Black. There is a growing dissatisfaction with his job. The isolation required by his service has taken its toll on this normally sociable person. He has developed the habit of ‘neutralizing’ his partners, erasing their memories of Men In Black permitting them to return to the normal world. Sinister alien Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) comes to earth in the guise of an underwear model to find a device that will give her control of the universe. ‘J’ must reverse the neutralization process on his old partner ‘K’ (Tommy Lee Jones) to save the world. In the first film ‘K’ gives up Men In Black to return to his lost love. Now, she has left him, he works as the postmaster for a small town but he still looks up at the stars knowing there is something out there. The plot is thin and serves mostly to drive the special effects but there is a good deal of expansion of these characters that most fans of the first film will greatly enjoy. There are naturally some great special effects that will most likely be a lot funnier to people like myself, born and raised in New York City. When a ‘J’ is riding a giant alien through an express track while no one on the subway platform even notices that where summed up the NYC subway experience for me.

The cast is made up of true professionals that know what is expected of them and more importantly, how to deliver the goods. Smith is the king of the Forth of July big budget film. In his reprise of the role of ‘J’ he extends the humanity of the character without losing the aspects of the tough, ex-cop loose cannon. He also has a good working chemistry with Jones and the two play off each other with perfection. The animated Smith and dead pan Jones are the best action/comedy team since Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon flicks. Ms Boyle is excellent as the slimy alien that poses as an underwear model. There is a nice touch of self-deprecating humor where Boyle is eating in almost every scene and even vomits after a large meal of earthling, an obvious stab at the tabloid constant speculation on how she manages a size zero figure. Not many actresses can play outright sex appeal with laughs they way she does. Even the smaller roles show attention to the importance of casting. Johnny Knoxville (of dubious 'Jackass' fame) as Boyle’s two-headed sidekick provides a twisted comic turn at just the right moments. Then there is the roles of Frank the Pug, Zed (Rip Torn) and Jeeves (Tony Shalhoub) who combined provide a feeling of familiarity and connection to the original. Shalhoub never fails, never disappoints in his performances. He can handle comedy and drama with equal ease. One breakout character is Rosario Dawson as Laura, the love interest for ‘J’. She has come a long way from her debut in Larry Clark’s dark ‘Kids’. She is getting a reputation for light comedy lately with films like Josie and the Pussycats but I think there is more there and she is an actress well worth watching.

Barry Sonnenfeld is a genius in the genre of the dark comedy. From his work in the Addams Family and previous Men in Black films he has proven that he can make an audience laugh at the weirdest subjects. He has a real eye for details. In the scenes where the aliens are being processed for life on Earth notice all the different crazy beings –present. The men in black scuttle around often without concern for gravity. The jaded New Yorkers oblivious of strange creatures, one creature is even warned to only come out at night and then only in Greenwich Village. Men In Black 2 is extremely short, only 118 minutes. Many people complained about this but I was reminded of the classic horror flicks of my youth. They got the story told without a lot of extraneous material. Sonnenfeld nicely handles this fast paced, streamlined style. He moves the pace along at almost break-neck speed. Considering the more introspective themes in Men In Black 2 a bit more exposition may have helped the audience to better identify with Agent 'J' and his plight.

Men In Black 2 is in a two disc set. The first disc has a director's commentary that did offer some degree of insight into the production and reuniting the cast. The second disc features the creation and implementation of the may strange alien characters. There are also an alternate ending and the DVD ROM has a script to screen section. The video is typically free of defect although I did detect some edge problems. For the most part the sound field was excellent. They did push things a bit so there was the extended music video feel to the audio. Sure there are faults in this film but if you want a film that will make you forget the world for a little while Men In Black 2 is it. There are jokes for the kids and ones that the parents will snicker over, a little something for everyone. Not up to the original but a worthy second installment in what will surely be a continuing series.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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