Men in Black II (2002) — Squandering geeks’ goodwill in appalling fashion

“The Botons are the Backstreet Boys of the universe. What’d they do, throw snowballs at you?”

Justin’s rating: Caesar and Justin: The Men In Comfortable Lounge Wear

Justin’s review: Join us for an adventure. Travel through the dark recesses of Justin’s Imagination to a happy little spot where the Hollywood Idiots are tortured nonstop with inventions of their own making. One of the denziens of Torture Land is a guy we like to call Simon. Simon, like all Hollywood Nincompoops, is a greedy jerk who is only concerned about money and profit potential. Yet Simon’s special job is that he has a huge vacuum machine that he uses on sequels, which sucks the very soul and essence out of what was beloved about the series. Simon has used his Sequel Sucker 3200 quite a bit.

Simon, alas, used it on Men In Black II. We will be torturing Simon for years to come, to make up for this crime alone.

Yeah, I hate to admit it, but this is one movie that really shouldn’t have been allowed off the factory floor without a major overhaul of the script. It’s not that it doesn’t make sense, but it is a movie devoid of the personality, fun, and razor-sharp dialogue that we loved in the first Men In Black. Instead, we get all sorts of lackluster CGI — tentacle woman, in particular, has effects that look straight out of 1997 — and about five jokes, maximum, that made me laugh.

If you want to know, right now, the exact setup of almost every joke in MIB2, here you are:

  1. Someone goes into an overly dry, technical explanation about something, or says something completely ridiculous with a straight face. It’s a great setup.
  2. Someone number two doesn’t say anything. Someone number two just stands there, staring dryly back, as if staring dryly is incredibly funny.
  3. That’s it. That’s the joke.

I mean, this happened dozens of times. Plenty of great joke setups, and then the writers took a day off to beat Super Smash Bros Melee. I actually found the guy who sat behind me more amusing. After (this is true) shouting aloud a conversation through the previews, this fat oaf fell asleep early on in MIB2 and proceeded to snore (this is also true) loudly for the remainder of the film. Listen, if I wanted to listen to snoring for two hours, I could have stayed home and watched my dog.

Speaking of which, yes, I’m very glad they brought Frank the Pug back, and gave him a bigger part. Frank the Pug is awesome. Pugs are intrinsically terrific, but when you add the sharp little MIB suit and a lot of mouth CGI, they just steal every scene. Since I’m convinced that Caesar (my Pug) is an alien too, I’ve been subjecting him to a lot of surprise tests. So far, I’ve found out about more of his butt-licking habits than any mortal man should be privy to.

I suppose you should see Men In Black II at least once in your life, just to get it out of the way. But unless you fall down in a fit of helpless giggles every time someone stares wordlessly at you, it shan’t be amusing in the end.

Clare’s rating: HUGE SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER STARRING WILL SMITH IS INOFFENSIVE AND MILDLY AMUSING. FILM AT 11:00.

Clare’s review: I find the movies that come out during the summer months, the ones that studios spend zillions of dollars promoting that have BIG stars and BIG stunts and even BIGGER promotional tie-in product placement and are usually BIG sequels to whatever BIG movie was a BIG cash cow the year before… are generally pretty boring. They have to appeal to as wide an audience as is humanly possible so they tend to be really safe, really basic and really, really loud. (The thinking being that if you’re bombarded with huge explosions, loudly executed CGI laden stunts and gigantic spectacles to behold, you won’t much notice that there ain’t much else going on. Attack of the Clones, I’m talking to you.)

Men in Black II follows this formula down to the letter. While I certainly didn’t have a bad time watching the film, and even laughed a few times and wasn’t squirming in my seat wishing I could be doing anything else, it’s not like I walked away from the experience feeling like I’d really seen anything tremendously interesting either. Which is fine I guess.

Summer blockbusters aren’t supposed to make you think or lead you into a deeper discussion about the films underlying message once you’re done with it. They’re confection. A distraction. A meaningless diversion. And I really can’t come up with anything wrong with that. Except that these are the movies that make quadrillions of dollars and are therefore the kinds of movies that studios wish they could make and market and profit from all the time. Which sort of waters down how risky studios are willing to be when greenlighting pictures. But as any movie go-er who’s been around for a while understands, movie studios aren’t in the business of creating great art and enriching the cultural fabric of our nation. They’re in the business of making as much money as they can. And hell, if Will Smith in product placed glasses shooting big cool looking guns and throwing off witty one liners while saving the world makes money, then so be it.

Men in Black II has a plot — but not one that really warrants a retread. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones have to save the world from killer aliens. The end. MIB II brings back all your favorite characters from the first film and provides a few new ones just to keep things moving along. Of particular note, I must say that the talking pug, Frank, pretty much stole the show for me, so that may be a good indicator of the quality of the film as a whole. Additionally, Tony Shaloub is here again, as is David Cross, both of whom I find endlessly funny and fun to watch no matter what frivolous pile of cotton candy they get themselves involved in. New to the proceedings are Rosario Dawson, as Will Smith’s sort of love interest, Patrick Warburton, in a small role as Smith’s latest partner (who hands in the funniest performance of the whole movie now that I think about it), Laura Flynn Boyle, as the leather clad, glaring bad guy and Johnny Knoxville as her dimwitted two-headed henchman. And while everyone knows I love Jackass and find Johnny Knoxville entertaining as Johnny Knoxville, everything else I’ve seen him in leads me to conclude quite comfortably that he may be a lot of things, but a competent actor ain’t one of them.

Movies like this are hard to review. Would I recommend it? Well, I wouldn’t recommend against it. There’s nothing about it that I found disgruntling or annoying. There are one or two funny lines and it’s harmless fun. But I’m not enthusiastically advising anyone that they must run out and see it rightthissecond or regret it for the rest of their lives either

Didja notice?

  • Grand Central has some odd happenings going on in their lockers
  • Michael Jackson as an alien… yeah, that was funny for about one second
  • David Cross (the geeky guy with the glasses) is back, but plays a different character than the guy he played in the first MIB
  • In the scene where K walks out on the street and sees the homeless man walking by with a shopping cart, glowing eyes can be seen peeking out from under a tarp in the cart.
  • These eyes belong to one of the mechanical aliens from *batteries not included, another film produced by Amblin Entertainment.
  • Edgar’s flying saucer on the roof of the diner
  • PlayStation controllers will eventually be used to do everything!
  • Director Sonnenfeld as the husband in K’s old house
  • Pugs are great singers

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