Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Men in Black Movie Review

Men in Black
Father: *** 1/2 Son: *** 1/2

William the Younger:

This is easily one of the funniest movies I have seen in my entire life. It combines a ton of the things I really like to make something that is near perfect. And it gets points for being a superb film that came out in 1997, the year the film industry was on cocaine, pot, or something, and produced some really big piles of crap like Batman and Robin, Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie, Steel, The Postman, The Saint, and many others, but I don't have enough time to talk about them right now. And it gets even more points, because 1997 was the year of my birth (man, I was born in the year where just about every movie that came out sucked. It must be my destiny to review them. YIKES!).

So this is the pl-- You know what, since this movie is just so hysterical, I think that it is best for me NOT to tell you what the plot is. Now that I have thought of this, I think that is how every one of my reviews is going to be like, from now on. Hmmmm....I've got another idea! How about I quote hysterical lines from this movie, and put a picture from the scene that I am reciting next to the dialogue!

There is a scene in this movie where Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) has Agent J (Will Smith) help an alien mother deliver a squid-like baby, while K escorts the father out of the scene to talk to him. This is pretty much the scene:
Agent K, p
ointing at the mother: You take care of her.
Agent J: What? How?

Father: Are you sure about this?
Agent K: Oh sure, he does it all the time.
Agent J, looking at the mother: OK, just breathe, yeah....Oh! K! Damn man! Damn!
And the result is the picture you are looking at now.

Oh, I can barely breathe I am laughing so hard! This movie is brilliant! I would love to post more of these, but I'm afraid I can't, because I would probably spoil something for everyone reading this. Oh what the heck! I'll do it anyway!

There is another scene where Zed, pretty much the boss of The Men in Black tells Agent K to get Agent J a weapon. They go to a chest full of weapons, and this is how the scene goes:

Agent K, pulling out a pretty large gun: A Series Four De-atomizer.
Agent J: That's what I'm talking about.
Agent K, pulling out an extremely small gun and handing it to J: Noisy Cricket.
Agent J, looking at the small gun: Hey, K, no no. Come on man, you get a Series Four De-atomizer, and I get a little midgy cricket?
Agent K, noticing that J is pointing it at him: Woah!
Agent J: I feel like I'm gonna break this damn thing!

Hilarious! Pure comic gold! Oh, man, I think I might pass out from laughing so much!! Once again, hilarious! Definitely pick this one up! Surprisingly though, this movie has flaws. Sometimes being just plain weird is an advantage, but if you use it enough, it will get kind of old. But all in all, this movie is superb. Pick it up NOW, if you can. I give Men in Black, being a very near perfect movie, three and a half stars.

For those of you who are wondering why my dad didn't give you his review yet, he is very busy and will try to get to his review as quickly as possible.

William the Elder:

Men in Black resides near the top of the short list of movies I would love to see again for the first time. And yet it loses little of its manic comic energy over the course of repeated viewings.

It has a "flake"* similar to the one that inspired Ghostbusters: It presents patently implausible situations in a sober, deadpan fashion that accentuates their comic value, where a more over-the-top approach would reduce the material to sophomoric camp.  

Men in Black was not the first film that attempted to capture the elusive quality that made Ghostbusters a comic milestone; that distinction, such as it is, belongs to that film's wan and regrettable sequel. Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman tried another version of that formula in 2001 with Evolution, only to find that the ingredients didn't quite cohere. In fact, it's difficult to think of a film apart from Men in Black -- including its own thoroughly unnecessary sequel -- that managed to play as a Ghostbusters-style hip action comedy, rather than a derivative, self-aware corporate attempt to mimic that approach.

It's difficult for me to imagine how the pairing of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith came together. This could easily have been the cinematic equivalent of a sauerkraut sundae -- an unpalatable amalgam of two elements, each of which is delectable in its element but prove lethal in combination. Instead, the result is akin to a salted nut roll, in which the seemingly incompatible elements play off each other delightfully.

Both Jones and Smith (could the actors have been chosen to play the anonymous "Men in Black" because of their nondescript surnames?) play the material absolutely straight; any other approach would have been disastrous. Rip Torn, as their supervisor, exudes a certain curmudgeonly authority while getting off what I think was the movie's funniest line ("Sucks, doesn't it?" -- you have to see the context in order to understand). The creature effects and other visuals are effective without being obtrusive.

Watching this film recently more than a decade after its release, it became obvious to me why Will Smith has emerged as the largest box-office draw in the world. He is effortlessly charismatic and compulsively watchable, combining athleticism, shrugged-off wit, and enough legitimate acting chops to play more serious dramatic beats. He could have done credit to the role of Phil Lynott in the proposed (but aborted) bio-pic. Tommy Lee Jones, who has both an Emmy (Lonesome Dove) and Oscar (The Fugitive) to his credit, is used here primarily as a reactive lead: His stolidity gives Smith plenty of space to engage in his more kinetic brand of action comedy.

The only negative aspect of Men in Black is the fact that its success prompted the studio to attempt to make it into a franchise, rather than permitting audiences to savor it as a unique pleasure.

*"Flake" in this sentence is used in the same sense as in the film The Color of Money. It describes an eccentric creative gift.

(Father & Son Reviews uses the four-star rating system, not the five-star or anything like that.)

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