Men In Black II

A five-years-in-the-making sequel that slavishly duplicates (at great expense) all the identifiable elements that made MEN IN BLACK (1997) a smart-alecky hit, leaching every drop of spontaneity from the material in the process. The film gets off to a bang-up start with Agent Jay (Will Smith) teaching a rowdy alien super-worm who's terrorizing subway riders...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A five-years-in-the-making sequel that slavishly duplicates (at great expense) all the identifiable elements that made MEN IN BLACK (1997) a smart-alecky hit, leaching every drop of spontaneity from the material in the process. The film gets off to a bang-up start with Agent Jay (Will Smith) teaching a rowdy alien super-worm who's terrorizing subway riders to act right or get smacked right, but the first real order of business is retrieving the formidable Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) from retirement. Kay, his memory of countless close encounters of the icky kind wiped clean by the MiB agency's nifty neuralizer, now runs a rinky-dink post office in Truro, MA, with the same ruthless efficiency he brought to masterminding bug hunts. Leaving aside the fact that Jones' deadpan gravitas is required to keep the amiable Smith from turning the entire film into a goofy riff on how cool he is, the narrative justification for his return involves a sexy alien super-bitch named Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) and her search for some extraterrestrial thingamajig. Serleena, whose fingertips sprout masses of writhing tentacles at the slightest provocation, is fully prepared to destroy Earth in pursuit of this otherworldly doohickey, the "Light of Zartha." Since Agent Kay was in charge of the original Light of Zartha case (wittily recapped as an episode of a cheesy, Peter Graves-hosted TV series called "Mysteries in History"), his expertise is sorely needed. Unfortunately, even after he's been de-neuralized, Kay can't remember where it's hidden. Good thing he left himself a series of clever clues that have the reunited partners rushing around Manhattan like campers on a cosmic scavenger hunt, trying desperately to beat Serleena to the prize. There's also a love interest for Jay named Rita (Rosario Dawson), plus expanded roles for the obnoxious worm aliens and Frank the pug (voice of Tim Blaney) — cue the inevitable "Who Let the Dogs Out?" gag — and a small but memorable bit for Patrick Warburton. Rip Torn and Tony Shalhoub reprise their roles from the first film, while Johnny Knoxville, of MTV's Jackass, plays an alien with two heads and half a brain. Screenwriter Robert Gordon's credits include the surprisingly clever sci-fi spoof GALAXY QUEST, but he couldn't overcome the fundamental problem with this material: You've seen it before. To his eternal credit, Jones gives his considerable all and even coaxes a startling note of poignancy from one scene, while Smith just bops along, lobbing gags and grinning at the special effects.

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