“Men in Black 2” was a bona fide hit even before it hit theaters. Actually, it was a hit even before the studio announced they would be making a sequel to the original. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that “MIB 2” is more of the same. Which is to say if you liked the original, then you’ll like the sequel; and if you happen to hate the original, then you’ll most likely hate the sequel because there’s nothing new to be found here.
“MIB 2” re-commences its story with Will Smith (“Ali”) reprising his role as Agent J, now the top superagent for MIB, a super secret government agency that polices Earth’s contact with alien species. After losing his mentor and partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) at the end of the original (K didn’t die, he was “neuralized” and inserted back into society as a regular Joe Schmoe mailman), J is still unable to find a suitable partner. In fact, J has developed a reputation for being trigger-happy when it comes to the neuralizer doohickey that the MIB uses to erase people’s memory. (J erases the memories of trainees that he feels didn’t quite make it as full-fledged MIB agents.)
Trouble comes to Earth in the form of Serleena, an alien creature that can create unlimited tentacles out of its body. Serleena takes the form of a hot lingerie model (Lara Flynn Boyle) and goes in search of some alien device for some reason or another. (I lost track of what she was looking for, but does it really matter?) In order to stop Serleena, J has to de-neuralize K and bring him back into the MIB fold. Along the way, J falls for Laura (Rosario Dawson), a witness to one of Serleena’s killing; J’s affections for Laura leads him to further question his chosen profession.
“MIB 2” is listed at 88 minutes, but that’s a lie because my DVD clock counter counted only 80 minutes to the FADE OUT moment, and I’ll wager that 5 minutes of that 80 was opening credits. This means that the movie is a fast-mover, and director Barry Sonnenfeld (who also helmed the original) has chopped off any and every extraneous footage. Tommy Lee Jones’ K doesn’t even show up until the 30 minute mark, but even before that the film is moving at a brisk, breakneck speed. I suppose with much of the film’s core audience being kids with attention deficit disorder a quick movie is appropriate.
I liked a number of things about “MIB 2”, one being Will Smith’s Agent J. As the film opens, J is at the top of his profession, but even so he’s starting to feel that something is missing from his life. Being an MIB means J had to severe all ties with his former civilian identity (this occurred in the original), and his profession doesn’t allow him to socialize with anyone outside of the organization. I liked how Smith handles the part, and you get the sense that not only has J the character grown, but also Will Smith the actor has come a long way. Tommy Lee Jones is Tommy Lee Jones, which means he’s rock solid as usual. I enjoyed the reversal of roles as Smith’s J becomes the educator to Jones’ memory-impaired K. (In the original, J was the rookie to K’s veteran.)
Rosario Dawson shows up as Laura, J’s potential love interest, but because the film has such a short running time, Dawson seems like a glorified extra instead of an actual character. A number of actors/characters from the original also re-appears, including Rip Torn as the MIB boss and Tony Shalhoub as an alien black market dealer. Lara Flynn Boyle does okay as the villain, and Johnny Knoxville (“Jackass”) is sometimes funny as her thickheaded sidekick. For some odd reason, Knoxville just simply disappears from the movie after a while, never to be heard from (or mentioned) again. What happened?
“MIB 2” does well when it stays with its oddball alien scenarios. A race of tiny aliens that live inside a train locker is good for a laugh, as well as Frank the talking dog. Michael Jackson also shows up in a cameo as — what else? — an alien. These quick scenes add a lot to the movie and make it lively. I could have used a lot more of it, but alas there’s a “plot” to be followed up on.
If there is one major negative, it’s that the film, like the original, has shoddy special effects. This is a little disheartening considering the high budget of both movies. Much of Serleena’s tentacles look fake, but then again so does other sfx throughout the film.
Barry Sonnenfeld (director) / Robert Gordon, Barry Fanaro (screenplay)
CAST: Tommy Lee Jones …. Agent K
Will Smith …. Agent J
Rosario Dawson …. Laura Vasquez
Lara Flynn Boyle …. Serleena
Johnny Knoxville …. Scrad/Charlie
Rip Torn …. Zed
Tony Shalhoub …. Jack Jeebs
Patrick Warburton …. Agent T