Title: Men in Black II
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Writers: Robert Gordon, Barry Fanaro, Based the Comic created by Lowell Cunningham
Distributed By: Columbia Pictures
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Lara Flynn Boyle, Rosario Dawson, Johnny Knoxville,Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub, Patrick Warburton
Release Date: July 3, 2002
MPAA: Rated PG-13
Agent N here, welcoming you to week two of Movie Monday’s month-long look at the Men In Black series! This is a dark day for the MIB. Today is the day we take a look at Men In Black II or MIIB. It’s one of those films one might consider “so bad it’s awesome.” So, without further adieu, let’s dive right in, shall we?
After the events of the first film, Agent J (Will Smith) is now the top operative for the MIB. Apparently, J has spent most of his time without a partner, after Agent L (from the first film) decided to return to her former life, and later partners get sent back to their old lives after J erases their memories because he doesn’t like them. While checking out what seems to be a routine crime at a pizza joint, J uncovers a plot by Serleena, a shape-shifting alien who disguises herself as a lingerie model (Lara Flynn Boyle).
Agent J is sent on a mission to bring Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) out of retirement, because he alone has the information needed to save the world. Are you with me so far? Good.
This movie is a step down from the first film in almost every way. The special effects of the first film, though five years older than the second film, are far superior. Not only the CGI, but the practical effects too look goofier and shoddy in this sequel.
And though one is hesitant to use the expression, the only thing that comes to mind is that everything about this movie seems to have been “dumbed down” from its predecessor, though why is a mystery. The first film was a huge success. And the “dumbing down” of this film doesn’t even seem logical. Whereas one might think that the humor was played up or the jokes were made more juvenile to appeal to children, you’d be mistaken. Most of the jokes appear juvenile, but not in a “let’s make the kids laugh” sort of way; more like “let’s appeal to the immature young men/college kid crowd.”
For example, an alien race called the “Ballchinians” are featured in this film, just for a quick shot of prosthetic testicles attached to some badguy’s chin, so that Agent K can deliver the second most stupid kick of the film, where he hovers in the air, clearly on wires, to kick an alien in the balls/chin. But sight-gags like that are followed up later in the film by Rip Torn rambling about the Kama Sutra and a former lover.
You might be thinking that these are just small examples of this sort of humor, but from aliens that communicate by beat-boxing, to an alien henchman passing out after catching an eyeful of his boss’s breasts, these cheesy moments fill practically the entire film.
This seemingly deliberate lack of quality is made all the more glaring when compared to the few great aspects of the film. Patrick Warburton features near the beginning of the film as Agent J’s current partner, who also happens to be extremely dim-witted. And he plays it to humorous perfection. A few scenes with Tommy Lee Jones are quite wonderful as he pulls off the funny-yet-touching-yet-badass character he played in the first film. Also, Will Smith delivers a few great scenes touching upon his romantic interest in Laura (Rosario Dawson). Finally, Danny Elfman seems to be given more free reign with this score, as it presents a stronger range of emotional cues and some more over the top adventure cues, as well. Personally, this film’s musical score seems to slightly outshine the score of the first film.
All in all, Men in Black II is an extraordinarily mediocre film, with a sprinkling of a few good moments, that rather than elevate the film, only serve to remind you how lousy the rest of the film actually is.
So, if you’ve for some reason never seen this film, and you’ve got an hour and a half to kill, there are worse ways to spend your time. And if you have seen the film, and many of you most likely have, be happy you’ve at least gotten to experience the second adaptation in the Men In Black franchise.
As an adaptation of the original source material, I’d probably give this movie a 4. and as a movie, more importantly as a sequel, this film also earns a score of 4 out of 10.
Be sure to check out next Monday’s entry, when Agent H takes over writing duties once again to look at the MIB franchise. And the Monday after that, for the Movie Monday review of Men In Black 3.