" I’ll be monitoring your frequency "
— Zoe Saldana, Star Trek

MRQE Top Critic

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Depending on how you feel about it, giving the audience exactly what they want could be called generosity or it could be called “pandering.”

Whatever you call it Men In Black II is a movie made for summer audiences. It’s short, to the point, and broadly appealing to adolescent males. It’s a fluffy treat that doesn’t include anything substantial or wholesome, just sugar and MSG. No protein, no fiber, no plot, no morals or social commentary. Only the strangely somber ending with fireworks against a World Trade Center-less NYC skyline seems to offer anything but sweetness..

Back in Black

Lock and Load: Smith is Back in BlackWill Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return as agents J and K, respectively. They work for the Men in Black, a secret government agency tasked with protecting earth from extraterrestrial alien scum.

The plot has something to do with an evil alien who lands on Earth looking for a magical jewel. The alien takes the form of Lara Flynn Boyle in a skimpy bra and victoria’s secret panties. (See “pandering,” above). MIBs J and K must fight the underwear alien to save humanity.

I made a point not to worry about the plot. Men In Black II is not going to attract audiences with a really good story. Appropriate evaluations of Men In Black II should focus on the jokes, the special effects and the personalities. I’m happy to report that there are no disappointments in any department.

Jokes, Special Effects, and Peronalities

The jokes work. Frank the little talking pug dog never failed to amuse, and neither did the crass, blue-collar bachelor pad full of alien worms. The civilization full of miniature aliens living in a locker in Grand Central station brought an unexpected chuckle as well.

The special effects work. In fact, the movie is practically one big cartoon. Aliens of all forms (including Michael Jackson and Martha Stewart) can be seen doing all sorts of impossible things. Bo Welch’s fanciful production design is a nice visual starting point from which the critters and gadgets can riff.

The personalities work. Will Smiff is smoove and cool, with just a little bit of an ego for the other characters to tweak. Tommy Lee Jones goes from humorless dictatorial postmaster to humorless dictatorial MIB veteran, proving that his take-charge, no-nonsense personality is too deeply ingrained to ever be wiped clean by any deneuralizer. Their buddy-cop chemistry is one of the great pairings of the last decade.

The two pretty girls (played by Boyle and Rosario Dawson), are just there for show. Their characters are simply the Bad Girl and the Nice Girl, and shame on Hollywood for pandering (see above).

Coming Back for More

But again, pandering is just another way of saying that the producers of “MIIB” are savvy businessmen. Give the audience what they want and they’ll come back for more. Better yet, give the audience not quite enough of what they want, and then they’ll really come back for more. Clocking in at under 90 minutes, MIIB left me wanting more.

I get the impression there were probably twenty minutes of footage somewhere that didn’t generate any laughs, and thankfully, those bits are tucked away safely somewhere where they can’t bore audiences.

It’s probably more entertaining to see Men In Black II twice than to have to sit through a version that’s too long just once.

No doubt, that’s what the ticket-sellers are hoping.