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Review: Unnecessary ‘Men in Black 3′ just O’K’ compared to predecessors

Courtesy of Wilson Webb

Third films in trilogies tend to, well, suck – or at least are not regarded quite as highly as their brethren. “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi,” “Spider-Man 3” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” are examples of such.

“Men in Black 3,” the first “Men in Black” film in 10 years, isn’t necessarily the utter failure its predecessor was, but it doesn’t quite measure up to the pure schlocky fun of the original, either.

The film picks up with Boris (Jemaine Clement), a one-armed alien baddie, breaking out of prison on the moon. When K (Tommy Lee Jones) mysteriously disappears, J (Will Smith) realizes he must travel back in time to stop Boris from killing young K (Josh Brolin) for blowing off his arm and attempting to install a shield around the planet to keep unwanted alien visitors out.

“Men in Black 3” offers enough of that B-movie pulp that made the first film a harmless romp. However, it feels largely disjointed and wonky, which is likely the result of the incessant rewrites and behind-the-scenes issues the film endured.

In all, “Men in Black 3” just feels a bit unnecessary, which is surprising given the way the franchise’s story arc plays out in the film. The film closes on a surprisingly touching and poignant moment for a “Men in Black” film, which is certainly nothing to complain about.

The first act of the film, however, is rather sloppily crafted – gags and set pieces fall flat on their face, which is a bit of a bummer considering director Barry Sonnenfeld has directed all three of the series’ entries.

Fortunately, there is enough cheesy wit to make the film worthwhile, despite some awkward jokes about racism in the ’60s that go on longer than they should. Smith is on point – well, as on point as he can be – with his trademark quips involving words such as “shiznit,” which is really what audiences only care to see in his movies.

And for you Lady Gaga fans, her appearance in “Men in Black 3” confirms that yes, she is indeed an alien.

Clement’s Boris isn’t all that memorable, especially compared to Vincent D’Onofrio as Edgar in 1997’s “Men in Black.” Clement has moments – watching him attempt laughter was one of the film’s funniest bits – but he never really gets the screen time necessary to become anything particularly iconic.

For a visual effects-laden bit of summer fun, “Men in Black 3” ain’t a bad time. Landing Brolin probably gave the film the shot of credibility it needed, even if he was simply a younger version of Jones. Plus, seeing Smith back in his ’90s form, as well as fleeting appearances from Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”) and Bill Hader’s (“Saturday Night Live”) Andy Warhol, make “Men in Black 3” at the very least a worthwhile treat.

Despite the film’s climax being set against one of the Apollo missions, however, and lacking a title track from Smith – it’s performed by Pitbull instead, unfortunately – “Men in Black 3” never quite leaves the stratosphere.

Grade: B-

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