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Men in Black II

Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith
Screenplay by Robert Gordon and Barry Fanaro; based on the Malibu comic book series by Lowell Cunningham
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

IN SHORT: Bullseye, dead-on, perfect summer popcorn flick (in the good sense of the term). [PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and some provocative humor. 83 minutes]

With a story that is so close to nonexistant there's almost nothing to describe (without being accused of giving it all away) -- alien fiend Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) comes to Earth to retrieve something called "The Light of Xartha," hidden on this planet 25 years before (give or take) and hunted down by her two headed henchman-slash-thing Scrad/Charlie (Johnny Knoxville).

It is Peter Graves who, as the host of a supposedly-fact based reality television program, introduces us to the story of The Light and sets up everything to follow in an inspired story decision that mirrors real-life teevee -- whether or not Graves believes he is telling the truth about Xartha and/or the MIB organization is up to you to decide. We've spilled too much about it already (but we're gonna spill some more).

Serleena needs the thing so she can destroy the planet of her enemy but enough about that. Retrieving The Light calls attention to itself in such a way that the Men In Black, in this case Agents Jay (Will Smith) and Tee (Patrick Warburton) are summoned who question fine young witness named Laura Vasquez (Rosario Dawson), who works in a pizza joint in Brooklyn, New York, Planet Earth.

Men in Black II, like Men in Black, features a veteran and a "novice" alien tracker, though the reversal of roles from the 1997 original are not explained to any great extent. It drapes sight gag after verbal gag upon high tech weaponry and gadgets, mixing it all with the dead on fabulous chemistry between the stone cold Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) and his hotshot partner Agent Jay (Will Smith). The one sore point about sequels that we constantly harp about, the need to have seen the preceding flick to follow what is going on, is a moot point here. Props to the creative team for covering all the bases quickly and concisely, save one -- explaining the what-it-is and why-it's-needed of the "neuralizer" may confuse the heck out of an MIB novice, but any first-timer will pick it up quickly enough, especially after one of said Agents fails to do his assigned duty. For anyone needing story elements to carry over from MIB, it is here the ball is dropped. By the time you realize this, if you truly care about it, you're too deep into the fun of the set up of MIB2 to get all that bothered about it. At least that's how we felt.

For the most part, though, MIB2 just expands upon characters established in Episode One. MIB Chief Zed (Rip Torn) returns as does pawn shop owner Jeebs (Tony Shalhoub), in a greatly expanded role. Also in greatly expanded roles are those show stopping Worm Guys: Sleeble (Greg Ballora), Gleeble (Carl J. Johnson), Neeble (Thom Fountain), Mannix (Brad Abrell) and Gordy (Richard Pearson), and the talking dog, Pug (Mushu, voiced by Tim Blaney). Add to the mix real life appearances by Martha Stewart and special Agent M (himself) and fill in the blanks yourself. We were having too much fun to take notes.

If we could remember details as of this writing, all of five days after our screening, MIB2 probably would have nailed close to a perfect ten. But it didn't and we can't. If we gave out scores for potential rentals, no doubt we'd go close to the perfect number for this is just about the most Fun a flick can deliver. If director Barry Sonnenfeld and writers Robert Gordon and Barry Fanaro could've figured it out, ten minutes more would probably have done it.

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


A perfect ten, by our scale would've been if we had wanted to plunk down another ten spot to see the flick immediately after seeing MIB2 the first time through. The lack of lots of subplot, plus the incredible excuse for a running time, accounts for the downgrad. Still, we had a good time. If we catch it again during the holiday maybe we'll change our minds though it's not something to bet on. Sometimes ya just gotta go for the fun.

Our Paul Fischer, out in LA, has filed CrankyCritic© StarTalk with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. Click the links for the inside scoops.

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