In the decade since the lackluster “Men in Black II,” the clamor for another sequel has been somewhat less than deafening.
With no better ideas, however, Hollywood went and made one anyway, and the resulting “Men in Black III” is, well, better than it should be.
Sure, it’s completely unnecessary, but it’s not without its charms.
The original Men in Black return again for this one: Will Smith as hip, wisecracking Agent J, and Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K, his somber, matter-of-fact partner, both doing their familiar jobs policing the world’s aliens.
Their world, though, is turned upside down when one alien — Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), a criminal so vile that they built a prison on the moon just for him — escapes from jail and travels back in time.
Suddenly the world situation is bleak, and Agent K is long dead. The only option is for Agent J to go back in time himself and thwart Boris before he changes history.
Smith is still likable, but some of his MIB schtick is forced and tired. He’s just not as funny in this role as he used to be, or maybe the writers aren’t as good. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to carry the movie himself.
Josh Brolin, playing the younger version of Agent K, is a pleasure at all times. Though he’s slightly more playful, Brolin maintains the same rhythm, deadpan delivery and Texas drawl of Jones, and the effect is frequently hilarious. He clearly steals the show.
The time-travel plot, itself — wrapped around the launch of Apollo 11 — challenges the bounds of time-travel logic, even by the very liberal standards of the genre. Several things really don’t make much sense.
Still, the film is enough fun that it doesn’t really matter. It’s better than the completely forgettable “Men in Black II” and the best movie that director Barry Sonnenfeld has made (talk about faint praise) since the original MIB, 15 years ago.
No, that doesn’t mean we need a “Men in Black IV.” Going out on a mildly positive note should be enough for the series.
Rental recommendation: Rip Torn’s Zed is replaced by Emma Thompson’s Agent O in “Men in Black III.” So to get your Rip Torn fix, watch “Dodgeball.” Grade: B+