THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Men in Black II (2002)
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
“The funny thing is that MIB movies are supposed to be big time summer CGI films (which they are), but it’s really about the stars.”
Well, well, well. If you’ve seen the ads (or maybe have already seen the whole thing by now), then I think it’s a safe bet that the new Ryan Reynolds/Jeff Bridges flick RIPD is a giant ripoff from Men in Black. From the look, to the tone, to the creatures, it all looks like a carbon copy of the Barry Sonnenfeld three parter. So while that film takes its dead aim at our wallets, let’s look back to the underappreciated Men in Black II.
Why underappreciated? Well, sequels rarely live up what made an original popular (or at least interesting) to begin with. I think it’s a safe comment that MIB I isn’t a perfect film. Shit, it’s not like ever attempted to be one, so beating it isn’t the most difficult act man’s history because no sane dude will ever confuse the MIB franchise with Kubrick’s 2001. MIB is stupid popcorn fare, and it knows it. So how much can we bitch about it? I’ve always found MIB II highly entertaining, and it seems hard to believe that a decade has passed. A freakin' decade? Actually, the curse of time really shows on this with simple shit (like old school big fat tube TVs, cell phones) and the mediocre CGI. For a movie with such fancy pants technology a lot of it looks either as cheap and plastic (literally, rewatch Smith's final battle in MIB HQ) as the cast of whichever Real Housewives floats your boat. Some of the aliens here look pretty good, but there’s a few moments (like when Will Smith is battling the Star Wars worm monster in the subway) that look just awful. And that’s too bad, because as the years go on, these first two films will look worse and worse. Jurassic Park they will not be.
The funny thing is that MIB movies are supposed to be big time summer CGI films (which they are), but it’s really about the stars. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones feel like the old pals they are supposed as agents Jay and Kay, and they have some great character moments between them as they do their witty banter old man/younger hip man back and forth. Its funny how certain actors have that chemistry thing, and these two have it. Smith usually steals every scene he’s in, but somehow Jones can dominate just staring. I don’t know if that’s a talent, but few others can pull that off.
For the villains, they added the nutty Johnny Knoxville. Sure, he’ll never be confused with an educated thespian, but he plays a good redneck goof. It might have been a mistake to hire a guy with limited acting ability to replace Pt. Leonard Lawrence (Vincent D’Onofrio), but let’s face it there’s nothing serious about these films. If Rip Torn is in charge of a secret convert organization, then not much is serious after that. But of course Knoxville just plays the two-headed (bad CGI) henchman, as the forget-that-she-was-so-sexy Laura Flynn Boyle is badgirl with the black, lacy bra. It’s kinda amazing that at this point, while starring in a massive summer tentpole, that her career was nearly expired. Since this movie and after The Practice wrapped up, she basically vanished…though she did star in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked this year. Ouch. Regardless, I actually really enjoyed Boyle here. She brings a comic book villain charm to the character, even if it’s all just surface level. Maybe I should rent Get Baked? Anyone see it?
I’m sure the main complaint on MIB, and perhaps all MIBs, is that they’re all kinda thrown together. The story never really makes sense, and it seems as we go from one zany moment to the next. Hell, it seemed like that was the main story line behind the scenes for Part 3. No story. But so what...if someone is going to give them millions of dollars to just wing it, damn, they seem pretty good at winging it.