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Creative Blackout

 

Men in Black 2

Barry Sonnenfeld, USA, 2002

Rating: 2.6

 

 

Posted: July 10, 2002

By Laurence Station

The second installment of the highly lucrative, if not particularly progressive, Men In Black franchise finds Agent Kay (a taciturn, undoubtedly well-paid Tommy Lee Jones) four years removed from the well funded secretive organization that monitors the comings, goings and goings-on of Earth's covert, yet abundant alien population. Kay's former partner, Agent Jay (a committed, eager to please Will Smith) has been having a tough time finding a partner to fill his old mentor's suit. Thus, it's obvious to every moviegoer that it's only a matter of time before the duo reunites to provide the "best, last and only line of defense" against the planet's utter destruction at the hands of extraterrestrial scum.

As it turns out, that "extraterrestrial scum" doesn't look half bad. Vile Serleena (a sexy Lara Flynn Boyle, who should have played her role for more laughs), is an evil Kylothian who disguises herself as a sexy lingerie model. Serleena seeks a McGuffin known as "the light," the details of which are fairly inconsequential -- save that the Earth will be destroyed if it's not removed from the planet before the last five minutes of the movie.

The plot, such as it is, is paper thin, but the film's energy level is engagingly high, assisted in no small part by Rip Torn as MiB head honcho Zed and the always-solid Tony Shalhoub, reprising his role (and essentially the same shtick) as Jeebs, an alien with an exploding head. Smith & Jones exert a comfortable and pleasant chemistry, bickering and bantering their way through one thorny situation after the next, but the danger is modest and frustratingly safe, as if Sonnenfeld wanted to make sure none of his principals received the slightest scratch before shooting began on installment number three. (Yes, number three -- rest assured, dedicated readers, MiBII all but guarantees a third entry in the franchise.)

Rather than put Earth at peril yet again it might have been nice to simply follow the MiB agents around, a day in the life, episodic affair, playing on the indifference of New Yorkers (who've seen it all) to bizarre creatures from outer space. Instead, it's all climax and no buildup. The film zips through its sub-ninety-minute running time as if it were convinced the per-day screenings' count would be adversely affected by such annoying additions as character development and rising, rather than continuously brainless, action.

The effects are reasonably well done, with a talking dog alien named Frank (marvelously voiced by Tim Blaney) the clear highlight. Johnny Knoxville's CGI-assisted two-headed alien falls disappointingly flat, however.

MiBII, then, is little more than mindless eye candy, the very definition of a "popcorn movie." Unfortunately, there's hardly enough substance to the film to sustain its bloated marketing campaign and pre-opening-weekend hype. Clearly, a solid script wasn't the studio's primary concern here, and the fact that it will invariably rake in a planet of cash (having already broken July Fourth weekend box office records) only guarantees that the next installment will be equally as vacant, if not more so, than this competently average, empty-caloried affair.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A masterpiece
 4.0-4.9: Exceptional

 3.0-3.9: Solid fare

 2.0-2.9: The mediocrities...
 1.1-1.9: Poor
 0.0-1.0: Utter dreck
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