In Brief: No matter where this lands — international, national or other worldly — it has zero personality and just isn’t that much fun.
Men in Black: International calls itself Men in Black. That’s just not true. There is only one Men in Black. It’s the 1997 film with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Smith’s wide-eyed terror and Jones’ flat, Jack Webb “just the facts m’am’ delivery gave the film originality and was flat-out-outrageous. It took us all by surprise and we laughed our collective butts off.
Then came the tepid sequel in 2002 and another awful one in 2012, and now this one.
Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth star as Agents M and H. They’re tasked with finding out why some aliens are killing other aliens to acquire the most powerful weapon in the universe. Also starring are Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson and The Big Sick’s Kumail Nanjiani who gives voice to their chess piece companion Pawnie.
Sadly, these men and women in black have no personality and neither does their movie. Thompson and Hemsworth have good chemistry but not much to do except smile, show off perfect teeth and run from scene to CGI-pumped up scene. Outside of a couple of bits where M and H aren’t talking to each other, MIB: International isn’t very funny.
Worse. It’s not that much fun nor even close to interesting.
Nanjiani is only actor that seems to be having a good time. He tosses off some pretty good lines. I suspect many are ad-libbed which is why his character is the only one in the movie that seems spontaneous.
By the way, this is the first of the Men in Black series that hasn’t starred Smith and Jones, and that hasn’t been directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. Apparently, they knew better and that waiting a few years between movies doesn’t change things.
Worn out is worn out.
Director F. Gary Gray (The Fate of the Furious, Straight Outta Compton) and his CGI magicians try hard to put some magic into the movie. They never quite get there. Part of the struggle is trying to top the original’s character surprises. The great writing, brilliant directing and, as noted before, two great actors made the movie a once in a lifetime experience.
As audience members we quickly figured that out and it led to that rare symbiotic movie experience where audience, filmmakers and actors become one. The sequels — and now this one — just don’t have that.
Gray and writers Matt Holloway and Art Marcum (Transformers: The Last Night, Iron Man) don’t even give us a decent outtake to push a sequel. That alone speaks volumes.
Maybe we’ll get lucky and there won’t be one.
Director: F. Gary Gray
Stars: Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Rebecca Ferguson, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Kumail Nanjiani, Les Twins, Larry Bourgeois, Laurent Bourgeois, Raif Spall
No magic. Not many laughs. Not much fun. No surprise. Nice try but it’s time to retire the franchise. Give MIB: International a paltry 2 on the Friday Flicks 0 to 5 scale.
Click here for theaters and show times.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.