Men in Black II

Directed By: Barry Sonnenfeld

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Lara Flynn Boyle, Johnny Knoxville, Rosario Dawson, Tony Shalhoub, Patrick Warburton, and Rip Torn

In part 2 of our retro review series on the Men in Black franchise, we turn to Men in Black II.  The original Men in Black film is a creative, smart science fiction comedy.  However, as I watched Men in Black II, all that came to mind was a line from the movie Lean on Me.  There is a scene in the film where several students attempt to sing the school song, but sound dreadful.  Joe Clark’s (Morgan Freeman) only response is a drily delivered, “Needs work fellows.  Needs work.”  The same can be said of MIIB as it does not live up to the magic of the original film.

MIIB takes place several years after the original film.  Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) has retired into obscurity, and Agent J (Will Smith) is now the top agent for the MIB, the secret organization that handles alien issues.  During an investigation of a crime scene at a local pizzeria, Agent J meets Rosario Dawson (Laura Vasquez), a waitress who is also a witness to her boss’s demise.  Evil alien Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) is behind the murder, as she is searching high and low for the Light of Vartha, which is hidden somewhere on Earth.

Unfortunately for MIB, Agent K is the only person who knows where the Light of Vartha is.  Agent K, however, is living a dull life working at a postal agency and has no memory of his prior life as a kickass alien fighting secret agent.  Agent J tracks him and brings him back to MIB.  Serleena, however, is not to be underestimated.  She launches an assault and destroys the MIB headquarters.  Agents J and K narrowly escape and the rest of the movie follows the dynamic duo reunited, working to stop Serleena.

MIIB is not without its charms.  Any child of the 80’s would appreciate the scene where Agent J communicates with an alien postal worker (Biz Markie) by using beatboxing as an alien language.  Classic.  Moreover, Smith delivers his world famous charm.  However, something about the film felt like a retread of the original.  More specifically, I expected Agent J to be less of a rookie because he had been operating in MIB without Agent K for so long.  But Agent K still appears to be the Yoda to J’s Skywalker.  So instead of showing growth in their partnership and adding an interesting new dynamic to the relationship, MIIB plays as a less shiny version of the original film.  It’s more like Men in Black 1.0.  I give MIIB a .09 rating, and would recommend knocking back a Jolly Rancher martini with this one.