Following a load of box office duds, Will Smith looks to reclaim his Independence Day domination with Men in Black 2. Of course, what would the sequel to the movie about secret agents who police extraterrestrials on Earth be without his old partner Tommy Lee Jones?
With exception to Enemy of the State, Will Smith hasn't had a successful movie since Men in Black. Ali was good but flopped. Wild Wild West made some money but was really bad. The Legend of Bagger Vance wasn't all that great and didn't make much money, either. So, however you look at it, Smith needed a hit, and so the logical choice is to make a sequel to a movie asking for one. Tommy Lee, on the other hand, has had a pretty good run, at least box office wise. All of his movies have made a far amount of money, but Space Cowboys is the only one I'd consider quality work since Men in Black. He too, I'm sure, doesn't mind doing a movie that is guaranteed to blow all of the other films away.
Unfortunately, what is sure to be a box office hit is not a critical favorite, among the professionals, or me. I wanted something funny, something fresh, something worthy of Men in Black, and instead got an ordinary sequel that in itself isn't awful, but isn't exactly stand-alone, either. Whether you liked it or not, look at it this way: Would Men in Black 2 be funny without the first film? I saw Terminator 2 before the first one and loved it, and that is what is called a good sequel. Men in Black 2 is a reunion picture, nothing more. J and K reunite, acting as though J is still a rookie and K has always been around. The plot hasn't changed, but everything else has just gone slightly downhill.
Men in Black 2 has a lot of funny parts, but most of them aren't that funny. I laughed, I enjoyed myself, but I wasn't really entertained; almost from the beginning, I felt disappointed, as though something were missing. I think the problems started when the villain (the extremely sexy Lara Flynn Boyle) crash-landed in New York; this looked exactly the same as the entrance for the bad guy in the first movie. Then it turns out that she is here looking for something called "the light" that has the potential to destroy the world; doesn't that sound like the storyline of the first movie? Even comedies need semi-original plots, and since Men in Black is sci-fi, it is open to limitless possibilities. It is amazing that out of all of the plots they could have done, they decided to do one that is COMPLETELY IDENTICAL TO THE ORIGINAL. What the hell?
Like I said, though, I did laugh. There are a lot of funny moments, even if they aren't always genuine. I like awkward humor, and there is a lot of that in this movie. The characters say something and then pause, causing an awkward silence that makes the audience laugh. It's funny. Except... Except for when this is the source of half the script's jokes. Sure, there's some decent dialogue, but there are a lot more pauses, and it gets tiresome after a while (not to mention the woman a few rows behind me that was giggling at every little thing, funny or not). Men in Black 2 does have some really funny moments, like where Boyle has a huge potbelly, and where Smith is trying to defuse a countdown but he's stuck on top of a pile of plastic tubing, and it takes him a while to get off of it. Nevertheless, the really funny scenes come few and far between.
The other problem that plagues the film is the characters. K (Jones) is a little too over-the-top for my liking; it would have been nice to see some contrast between his non-MIB persona and his usual self (since he can't remember anything at the beginning of the movie). Also, didn't he want to retire at the end of the last movie? How come that is never mentioned here? Then there's Will Smith, who seems to have taken a step back from his acting magnificence in Ali. He seems extremely juvenile at times and it gets tiresome; although, at other times, he's quite hilarious. Boyle is very sexy, even though she has tentacles, but she is nowhere as funny as the creature from the first movie. Johnny Knoxville's second head is pretty damn funny. And that leaves Rosario Dawson, who plays the most pointless character to grace the screen. They set her up as a love interest, do nothing with it, and then pull a really strange twist at the end that makes the already-terrible climax even worse. Poor girl.
A lot of the things that were great about Men in Black are lacking here. The chemistry between Smith and Jones seems muted, as if they're doing this movie only because they're being paid lots of money. The funniness of characters seeing aliens for the first time is absolutely nonexistent here, as both Jones and Dawson seem very unimpressed by the presence of extraterrestrials. The plot is still there, but it is the exact same plot.
I liked Men in Black 2 moderately, but I wouldn't watch it again.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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