No alienation with Men In Black 3

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones team up for the third installment of the Men In Black series.

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones team up for the third installment of the Men In Black series.

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:44 PM ET

Like Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady -- and this may be the only way in the universe these two films could be compared -- Josh Brolin is the real reason to see Men In Black 3.

That is to say, his performance as a young Tommy Lee Jones/Agent K, circa 1969 is masterful, funny, layered and better than it has to be. It is so good, it sometimes seems to belong in another, better movie. Certainly, a bad Tommy Lee impression would have sunk this MIB3 like, um, Battleship. Consider, by contrast in the same movie, Alice Eve playing a young Emma Thompson. Fail.

As it is, Brolin's performance gives comedic heft to this three-peat of the franchise about a group of dark-suited federal operatives who oversee the presence of extraterrestrials on Earth. Anyone who remembers the misbegotten MIB2 (and even director Barry Sonnenfeld barely remembers it) will be happy to know MIB3 surpasses that low bar at least.

The plot -- in fact, any plot involving time travel -- is a potential nightmare. The movie opens with an escape from a maximum security prison on the moon (man, the things the government manages to keep secret from us).

The escapee is a snaggletoothed, bear-like ET named Boris The Animal (Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement), who harbours a grudge towards Agent K (Jones) who'd captured him, and caused him to lose his arm, 40-plus years earlier.

His plan: steal a time machine, travel back to July,1969, and kill the young agent K before he could do his job. Just thinking about paradoxes can give you a migraine. For starters, once K ceases to exist, how does K's partner J (Will Smith) remember that he did exist when no one else does? There's some technobabble reason given, but basically, it's "just 'cause." Jones' part in MIB3 amounts to little more than a cameo, since the whole movie is geared to its central premise, transporting J back to '69 to play fish-out-of-timestream, giving him a chance to meet "Andy Warhol" and threaten to "pimpslap the shiznit" out of him.

(As in the original MIB, part of the throwaway fun is finding out, through surveillance and other means, which celebrities are indeed extraterrestrials. Is Lady Gaga one? What do you think?)

The plot careers onward to J's encounter with the early MIB project and contrives to put J and the young K in a car together, to replicate the Smith/Jones chemistry with Brolin as the surrogate. Their give-and-take is a slightly time-warped version of the original MIB chemistry.

One other character serves a purpose as a great device to ameliorate the plot confusion. That would be Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) who plays Griffin, an ET whose race has the ability to experience different alternative futures.

Stuhlbarg's good-natured and diffident witness to future cataclysms makes for the second best performance in the movie. And it at least provides a plausible narrative for why time travel is a mug's game.

Three-and-half-stars

This film is rated PG


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