We’re Not Hosting an Intergalactic Kegger Down Here
After watching Snow White and the Huntsman, I felt I had the time to catch a second movie, but we’ll get to that in a couple of days. This movie was the third part in a trilogy, so it stands to reason that I would review the first two movies first. I remember the other two movies as being very funny, really cool, and really imaginative. But, as with so many movies, you never really know how well they’re going to hold up to the scrutiny of today. We’ll find out in my review of Men in Black, written by Ed Solomon, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, and starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Linda Fiorentino, Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub, David Cross, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Mike Nussbaum, John Gries, Tim Blaney, and Richard Hamilton.
A member of a secret organization called the Men in Black named Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is left without a partner when his previous partner (Richard Hamilton) is proven to be too old to do the job anymore. Meanwhile, James Darrell Edwards III (Will Smith), a NYPD officer chases down a strange man on foot that has two pairs of eyelids and can climb walls. When he catches him, he tells him that the world is coming to an end and jumps off the roof. Needless to say, his peers at the precinct don’t believe him, but K does. After getting the information from him he needs, he uses a device that erases his mind called a neuralyzer, but having seen his potential, also gives him a card to come and potentially become a Men in Black agent. Though one could say he did less than stellar on the tests, K talks the Agency leader, Zed (Rip Torn), into taking him on. James Darrell Edwards III loses his identity and becomes Agent J. Their first case together involves a large, cockroach-like creature wearing the skin of a farmer named Edgar (Vincent D’Onofrio) and looking for something called “The Galaxy”, which is apparently located on Earth. Finding it would mean the destruction of the Earth, so the Men in Black must intervene.
Men in Black is a really fun and imaginative movie. It was one of the most fun movies that I can presently remember from my high school days, and it completely holds up. The writing is pretty basic science fiction fare with a few twists and turns so as to not be predictable and with enough comedy to set itself apart. At its core, it’s just about the regular stuff of saving the world from destruction by an alien race, but it adds the fish out of water thing with J having to deal with all sorts of things that he was previously unaware of their existence. Will Smith’s character adds the bulk of the comedy because of this fish out of water stuff. One of my favorite comedy moments for Will Smith is when he’s in the shooting range to audition for the Men in Black and he shoots only the little girl cutout. His explanation for why he chose to shoot her is fantastic. They don’t do very much drama in this movie, and that’s what keeps it fun. All of the drama stuff is because of K, who we quickly find out is pining over the woman he loved who he can’t keep in touch with because of his job. That gets a satisfying wrap up in the end. The part where they save the world from the aliens is almost secondary, but it’s still interesting. The cockroach creature in the Edgar suit is intimidating in any one of its incarnations. When it’s wearing the Edgar suit, its skin is hanging off its bones making it look pretty gross, but pretty cool as well. There’s a bit of a mystery to this part of the story because they’re told the galaxy they’re looking for is on Orion’s Belt, and they need to figure out what that means, but the mystery doesn’t take that long. The look to this movie holds up very well. I really like their opening of watching a fly travel down a highway until it’s plastered across a windshield. The aliens look very good, both in their animatronic forms and their computer generated forms. It’s all very stylized and cool. In fact, I figured from the look of it that Tim Burton had something to do with it, but I think it was just the Danny Elfman music that gives that feel to it.
The greater majority of the performances work very well in this movie. Will Smith is always a delight to watch. He’s very funny in this movie and even has a few minutes where he gets to be awesome. Take, for instance, when he was facing off with the cockroach near the end of the movie and he tells the giant, sinister cockroach to ease up out of his face. He pulls that stuff off just as well as he pulls off the comedy. Tommy Lee Jones’ most impressive stuff in this movie is the emotional parts. He doesn’t go over the top with it, but it’s clearly there. The bulk of the comedy he’s involved with is as a straight man, and he does that fantastically. Vincent D’Onofrio was a difficult one for me though. He definitely played the Edgar suit version of himself in an intimidating way, but he also kind of hammed it up at times.
Men in Black was one of the most fun movies of my high school years, and it stands up to the memories I had of it. At its core, it’s not the most brilliant or innovative story, but the comedy and the creative look it brings sets it apart from the basic sci-fi fare. And all of the performances in the movie do well to help the movie accomplish the fun it sets its sights on, even though D’Onofrio may go a bit over the top at times. Men in Black is a great movie that should be in any collection. Tomorrow, we’ll find out about the sequel. Men in Black gets “I make this look good” out of “You’ll get used to it … or you’ll have a psychotic episode.”
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