Men in Black III (2012) – Barry Sonnenfeld (Dir.), Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg
Who the fuck is Barry Sonnenfeld? And who the fuck does he think he is? Who the hell has the audacity, nay, the wrecking-ball sized testicles, goolies of gold, the brass balls to create both Men in Black and Big Trouble, quite possibly two of the most underrated weird-ass comedies of the late nineties/early naughties, as well as Wild Wild West, RV and Men in Black II, a trio of such repugnancy that even the suggestion of a giant metal spider in my presence brings about blinding rages. But seriously, who is this guy? Who gets some of the best acting talent alive in America today, you know Oscar-nominated Will ‘He Was a Rapper Once?” Smith, Oscar-winner and professional modern-day cowboy Tommy Lee Jones, as well as Josh “The Iron Chin” Brolin and Oscar-winner Emma Fucking Thompson (That actually is her middle name. Google it) and has them running around blowing up aliens, squawking like freaks, jumping off of buildings, leaping onto space shuttles and chasing Jemaine Clement through 1969 Queens on that really homosexual device called ‘It’ Mr. Garrison develops in South Park. Who is this guy? God? A professional Hollywood blackmailer who has them all by the ovaries? A demon of such deviousness that early in their careers he offered each of the aforementioned infinite talent and success in exchange for one day having goop spat up on them by CGI Chinese space fish? It’s a conundrum.
Men in Black III is the entirely unnecessary, bizarro, timey-wimey third and final (? Yeah, let’s be real. There’ll be another) installment of the only still living remnants of Will Smith’s 90’s movie career. As he has delved into the pretentious depths of Oscar-bating bullshit like Seven Pounds and the poorly advised remake of I Am Legend, Mr. Smith has all but evaporated from the Hollywood scene. Well, now he’s back in the suit, back in the smile and filling little chilluns hearts with joy, employing that special blend of street-wise smarts and non-threatening blackness that Chris Tucker never seemed to manage. It’s charming as fuck, just like that Roguish Han-Solo smile Mr. Smith so effortlessly busts out every thirty seconds. It’s goofy. It doesn’t make a lick of sense. It’s the perfect piece of summer fluff, a puff of cotton candy that lasts in the mind as long as that saccharine pink sweetness lasts on the tongue before dissolving into a fleeting memory of childishness.
It has a plot, in theory. Apparently, back in 1969 Agent K, the chisel-faced (in that his face looks both like a chisel and the craggy piece of rock out of which someone attempted to carve him) put away Boris the Animal (a superbly miscast and utterly mind-blogglingly odd Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame. All joking aside, watch that show. Jerks) Well, using a cake and a pair of boobs attached to a woman, Boris escapes from a maximum security moon-prison to exact his revenge on Mr. Jones. How does he do it? By going back in time and killing K in the past. Sure. Why not? In the process, his hetero-life mate and proof that he isn’t racist, Agent J (William Huntington Smith III) suddenly gets chocolate-milk craving headaches and is the only person in the world who remembers his time-erased pal. How? Who knows. True love. Maybe. They certainly hint at it. It’s like a new-age sci-fi Driving Miss Daisy. So…J literally jumps back in time, running into young Agent K (Mr. Josh Brolin, of course), Andy Warhol and a whole lot of racism. That was amusing. Especially when he gets pulled over for being a black man in a suit. Comedic genius.
There is so much oddity packed into this thing, it’s like a furry sex party (google it). You almost need a safe word. In between Chinese slug-aliens with a dozen arms and a dude that looks like if a Vietnam vet. raped Cthulhu, you really will spend a good deal of the film going ‘Huh?’ And this not new for the series. In fact, remember back to the first one. For a summer blockbuster, it had giant space cockroaches regurgitating Tommy Lee Jones and the living Picasso that is Vincent D’Onofrio’s face. Both of which are primally horrifying. Perhaps in the vein of The Fifth Element there’s a certain degree of bat-shit that works its way into the time-tested formula of money-making turdery. Sonnenfeld, I suppose, attempted this again in my white-whale-of-my-film-criticism-career Wild Wild West. In place of a giant cockroach wearing man-skin, we have a double amputee Shakespearean actor using a giant spider to take over America in the 1800s. Fuck that movie.
Perhaps the true codification of this peculiarity is Mr. Stuhlbarg as Griffin, a fifth dimensional being capable of seeing every single possible outcome of the universe as well as the pathways of causality leading us to each one. It’s frighteningly genius. That character in this film is like unearthing a Rembrandt in a 2nd grade art class. You see it and you must burn the place down because such beauty and intelligence could have only ended up in this montage of adolescent uselessness by way of nefarious means. Not only that, but Stuhlbarg performs the awkward, nebbish being to such perfection you just want to hug him and take him to meet your mother. He’s just so damn cute.
I saw Stuhlbarg as Hamlet onstage once. Not much to that story. I just did. After the show, I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman congratulate him while looking like a fucking hobo. That guy is a badass. A hobo, Oscar-winning badass.
Even with the inspired and completely unintentional exploration of the nature of causality (Etan Cohen, the writer, is an alumnus of Beevis and Butthead. Yeah, that’s fucking pedigree), there are notable glaring issues. Mr. Brolin, who plays an eerily perfect Lee Jones, plays a 29 year old. In real life, he is 44 fucking years old. Not sure if my math is correct, but those are not the same thing. At all. However, the impersonation is spot-on, leading me to believe that there is a market for retro-fitting Jones’ classics with Brolin. Also, vice versa. Who wouldn’t wish to see Josh Brolin tell Harrison Ford he doesn’t care if he killed his wife. Conversely, I think Mr. Jones would bring a level of gritty gravitas sorely lacking from The Goonies. Get on it, someone. The other big problem: the time travel is bullshit. Like…a herd of steers with IBS after raiding a chili cook-off levels of bullshit. There’s a part (spoilers) where Will Smith gets shot like four times and then turns time back to before he gets hit and is totally fine. Wait…so, by that logic, when he goes back in time to 1969 initially (in exactly the same fashion) he should regress to a fucking nine year old. I call shenanigans. SHENANIGANS! Nobody gets time travel right.
Don’t get me wrong. I really enjoyed this movie, perhaps way than I had any right to. It was a blast. However, back to intelligence and whatnot, if there is one, the final thought would be this: there is no thought. None. Yes, they attempt to inject this bizarro-fest with some human emotion near the end and they fail miserably. It just doesn’t make sense. Like a dog walking on its back legs, it’s cute…but attempting to be something its not. Eventually it will have to fall on all fours and start licking its balls again. This movie famously began shooting without a script. What the hell were they doing? Just filming Mr. Smith wandering around NYC cracking wise while Tommy Lee imitated a gravel garden? How can you expect to find a deeper layer of the human condition if you’re going to leap to the sex without beginning with a kiss? Come now. But it is fun. It’s candy. Pure, uncut Costa Rican white gold. Glucose of such divine emptiness that it’s sweet on the lips and you never need to worry about it ever again. It’s a perfectly enjoyable blockbuster. A relic of the summer that won’t make it into anyone’s scrapbooks. No one will look back on 2012 and think “holy shit! That was the time I saw MIB III! Good times.” They’ll just remember having fun, a couple of laughs and enjoying themselves.
And that’s the point right? I hope so. Otherwise we’re all wasting our fucking time.