In an interview, director Barry Sonnenfeld told me about four years ago that he didn't want to make another Men in Black. The studio wanted it, he said, but he just wasn't interested. What a difference Wild Wild West and Big Trouble will make to your choice of film projects!
And so Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return to their black suits in one of the most uninspired sequels in recent memory, going through the motions while spouting one-liners en route to encounters with familiar characters at the familiar locations which made the original Men in Black so endearing.
The conceit of this 88-minute, blink-and-ya-missed-it affair is that Jones' retired Agent K is needed once again to save the planet from some encroaching threat that will destroy the entire earth within the next few days. Unfortunately, K's memory (which holds the key to saving the planet from said threat) was erased at the end of the last movie by his old partner Agent J (Smith). The first third of the film sets up the threat (in the form of a panty-clad Lara Flynn Boyle -- excellent casting, there -- in disguise as an enormous worm-type alien thingy). The next third involves the quest to get K's memory back. The final act, of course, pits our heroes against the alien as they bring out their crazy plastic guns and take an amount of brutal physical punishment that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger wet himself. It really feels like a cartoon... if only it weren't for the actual humans appearing in the movie....
While Sonnenfeld musters the energy to get to the obligatory Men in Black theme of alienation among one's own kind, the film never becomes as endearing as its predecessor. The talking dog just isn't as funny when he's humping a giant alien's tentacle. Tony Shalhoub's Jeebs isn't as much fun now that we know his head grows back. And while some of the casting is inspired -- including David Cross as the perfect video store geek and cameos by would-be aliens Michael Jackson and Martha Stewart (uncanny in its timing!) -- some of it is oh-so-obvious in its pandering to the MTV generation. Johnny Knoxville? I haven't seen a supporting role this blatant and pathetic since Tom Green appeared in Charlie's Angels. (Though, in fact, Knoxville is a far, far worse actor.)
The rest of the movie is harmless, forgettable, and simply uninteresting in comparison to recent action flicks like Spider-Man and Minority Report (yes, you can have your sci-fi and your mind food, too). The special effects are nothing new and are rarely even credible. The script is as subtle as Kung Pow (potshots at postal workers? Puh-leeze...). And even the cute ending is spoiled by what comes after: Will Smith's atrocious "Nod Your Head" musical number as yet another movie-inspired anthem for our youth. How lazy are today's kids, that nodding your head actually passes for a dance move, anyway? Elvis, where are you?
You know what they say about guys with big guns.