Men in Black II (PG)
There’s no real mystery as to the genesis of Men in Black II.
Everyone knows Hollywood sequels are big business. The mystery, if such it is, rests on why it took Columbia Pictures five long years to come up with a second film.
Of course, much of that delay is down to the wage demands of screen partners Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, but one would assume that five years is enough to come up with a script that matches the partnership’s screen dynamism.
Unfortunately Men in Black II is a formulaic affair – a painting-by-numbers blockbuster that lazily trades off its predecessor, which was a box office behemoth by anyone’s standards.
The main problem with MiB II is that, having established his heroes and their milieu so effectively in their first adventure, returning director Barry Sonnenfeld doesn’t feel the need to expand their universe by much more than a hissable female villain (Lara Flynn Boyle, underused and largely pointless) and a sidekick with two heads.
The plot is immediately forgettable. Agent Jay is happily reunited with his colleague and mentor, deadpan Agent Kay (Messrs Smith and Jones, respectively) when a Medusa-like alien lands on Earth with the intention of recovering a light source that, if used, would destroy Earth and bring chaos to the universe.
The boys’ reunion and resultant pursuit of their quarry, already disguised as a foxy brunette in a leather dress, takes them into contact with a variety of friends and foes, and leads to more comic shenanigans of the like that made the first film such fun.
Men in Black II is perfect entertainment for undemanding teens, but it lacks that intrinsic (and vital) va-voom that made the first film such a joy to watch and engage in. Smith and Jones work entirely on autopilot, Boyle has little to do except provide the run-up to an array of special effects, and so Sonnenfeld is forced to fall back on the already familiar elements of the first film.
There are some original moments, and just enough to keep audiences happy. Smith enjoys a ride on a giant worm (called Geoff) in the depths of the New York subway, and Jones finds an entire world inside a locker at Grand Central Station.
Yet the film never really fires on all cylinders and, with Jones absent from the picture for the first reel, it is left to Smith to hold the whole affair together. The trick with MiB, of course, is that the buddy-buddy banter and bickering of the two stars keeps things rolling along. You can’t have one without the other.
In that respect perhaps Men in Black II isn’t such a mediocre movie after all. It does everything audiences expect, reunites two popular stars for a second double-act adventure, and provides the type of easy entertainment that the majority of us have come to expect from mainstream studio flicks.
So, if you’ve seen Men in Black, you’ll probably enjoy this. If not, you’ll doubtless wonder what I’m banging on about.