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men in black Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith
Screenplay by Ed Solomon
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

IN SHORT: The best movie comedy of the year.

Cranky has written many times about the difference between "films" and "movies". Today we're dealing strictly with the latter. Men in Black is, let's get this out of the way right up top, a summer movie which delivers a thousand times more fun than even the most optimistic buzz hinted at. How badly has Cranky been raving about MiB in the three weeks since he saw it in a crammed to the gills sneak? Very, as in to the extreme.

As always, Cranky makes no comparison to source material. Considering that he collects comics, it's a wonder that Cranky missed the "Men in Black" series by Lowell Cunningham. Now it'll cost him a fortune to track down the Malibu Comics originals.

This is what makes a comic book work: gadgets, uniforms, and a simple story that makes you go "wow!" (Aliens in the story don't hurt, either.) When comic books make it to the big screen someone, usually a suit or a director type, decides that one of those elements is more important than the others and puts nipples on 'em. Men in Black concentrates on the minor things, like a story that makes sense. Everything else is whipped cream on top.

The MiB gadgets include an index card-sized pistol that can blow a hole through a truck, a car that can drive upside down and a "flashy thingy" that can erase a person's memory. The story involves aliens, the fate of the galaxy, a threat to destroy earth and an assassin who wears human, uh, skin. The effects are by Rick Baker, the CGI by ILM and the uniforms are black suits and Ray-Ban sunglasses, worn by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. Jones does his best Jack Webb. Smith proceeds, for the second year in a row, to kick alien butt.

From the word go, the audience Cranky sat with sensed that something wonderful was about to happen. From a lonely road crossing the Mexican/ U.S. border (where the immigrants don't speak Mexican Spanish and are made out of blue slime), to a hidden headquarters across the Hudson from Ellis Island, MiB fills the screen with wondrous sights and hilarious comedy. It all works because the film doesn't go to great lengths to point out the effects -- Alien Immigration is old hat to the old guard MiB. The new recruit (Smith) is too busy trying to figure out when reality stopped making sense. An ex New York Cop "J," as he is renamed, chomps at the bit to get his hands on the big guns and cool weapons and is not phased when big name movie stars and politicians are revealed to be aliens in disguise. You, on the other hand, will feel your jaw drop just before the laughter starts booming out of your gut.

In brief, Men in Black is about an alien assassin who comes to Earth, and of an alien warship prepared to toast this planet if we don't turn the Galaxy over to them. Tony Shalhoub (ex of TV's Wings) in a prosthetic chin is an alien arms dealer who's had his head blown off more times than he cares to remember; screen siren Linda Fiorentino is the left-of-center all-American Morgue MD who has been flashed once too often by the MiB's memory stealing thingie, and Rip Torn is the MiB boss of all bosses.

Cranky has not had so much fun in the dark since... well, let's not get into my miserable personal life right now, let's salute director Barry Sonnenfeld, screenwriter Ed Solomon and Executive Producer Stephen Spielberg (for hedging his bets on the dinosaurs <vbg>) and acknowledge the best summer movie ever. Or at least since 1993.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Men in Black, he would have paid...

$8.00

I live in Manhattan. We pay $9.00 (but I've got rules to follow). Men in Black was worth the ticket price and the $7.50 for a large popcorn and soda. This is the best of the year, so far. Don't ask questions, get on line now.

Click to buy films by Barry Sonnenfeld
Click to buy films starring Tommy Lee Jones
Click to buy films starring Will Smith

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