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"Men in Black II"

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.
Written by Robert Gordon and Barry Fanaro.  Based on a comic book. 
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Rosario Dawson and Lara Flynn Boyle.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  7/7/02 


The trailer for the next “Lord of the Rings” film—all two minutes of it—was better than “Men in Black II.”  Man, this movie blows!

While not as bad as Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West”, “Men in Black II” comes very close.  Featuring the financially-successful formula that made “Men in Black” such a success, its sequel isn’t so much another movie as an extra 88 minutes of footage that could easily be called “Men in Black 1A” or “Men in Black, Version 1.3” or “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

See, this is where sequels can really be misguided:  there is nothing new and interesting about the film’s two lead characters, Agent J (Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), their agency, our world, or for that matter, the supporting cast.  There aren’t more jokes or more action scenes or cooler aliens or cooler equipment.  In fact, the only thing new that the leads get to use in “MiB II” is a new car, a Mercedes more gratuitously featured than the Lexus that is all over “Minority Report.”  Otherwise, same guns, same de-neuralizer, same pawn shop operator (Tony Shalhoub), same HQ, same suits, same Ray-Bans.

The plot is even worse than the first film, which wasn’t too good to begin with.  Some alien named Serleena shows up on Earth, takes over the body of a Victoria’s Secret model (Lara Flynn Boyle), and proceeds to search for The Light, which it needs to...well, do something.  See, they never really tell you exactly WHAT it is that Serleena needs The Light for, but we do find out that if it isn’t moved from the planet within 24 hours, our world will blow up.  So, J and K go out and try to find out where The Light is before Serleena does.

When your film is only 88 minutes long, you don’t have much time to fuck around with “an interesting story” or “complex, layered characters” or “originality.”

So, you put in SIX different scenes with people being de-neuralized, which (for those not familiar with the term) means that we spend about ten minutes of film time watching J or K pull out that little silver rod and wipe memories from people’s brains so they don’t remember that they just saw an alien.  Then, you shake your film with cameos by five or six different people from other walks of life; so, at varying points, TV’s Johnny Knoxville (“Jackass”), Biz Markie (as a rappin’ postal worker), Michael Jackson, or Patrick Warburton (“The Tick”) show up in “MiB II” just for shit’s sake.  Finally, slap a horrible ending onto your film, so bad that it actually reminded me of the ending to “Hard Vice.”  (Hint to those few souls that have seen “Hard Vice”:  two words—one fucking shot.)

Did director Barry Sonnenfeld notice in the editing room that during one scene, Jones’ character is firing a laser gun without even pulling the gun’s trigger?  And, if he did, did he care?  It’s things like this that really illustrate how tough it can be to have actors work in sci-fi films; if Jones had to fire a real gun, well then he would have had to pull the trigger.  In Smith’s case (he is in many more scenes than Jones, but for some reason, Jones still has top billing here...odd), the energetic actor just looks bored at times throughout this film; maybe that is because he is talking to CG aliens or a blue screen for almost all of the film, like Ewan McGregor did in the last “Star Wars” film.  Because of this, you don’t really feel any love for the leads or really get into the outcome; it’s like you are just sitting there waiting to see another special effect.

Boyle is another story altogether.  If any hot actress would do, why not get one with some charisma!    All of Boyle’s scenes are a drag, just a drag.  At no point during the film did I feel the evil that was apparent with Vincent D’Onofrio as the heavy in the last film; I just thought the producers were desperate to feature some skirt and a lot of screen time for some chest shots.  In fact, why not just develop your plot around the hottie from the last film, Linda Fiorentino?  She is a much more capable actress and, looking at her best film, “The Last Seduction” (a great, great film to rent, by the way), she can play evil better than almost any actress working today.  Having this Serleena inhabit the body of Fiorentino’s character would have made for a much more interesting storyline.

How bad is this film?  At one point, a talking dog character named Frank is in the Mercedes listening to...”Who Let the Dogs Out?”, the song that I will state on record as being the worst song to ever be played on radio in the history of America.  I DARE you to name a worse song.  I would rather go to ten wedding receptions and hear “Mambo No. 5”, “The Macarena”, and all of the laundry list songs that get played at those things before I would wanna hear the full 12” club version of “Who Let the Dogs Out?”  That is the worst fucking song ever.  EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rating:  Hard Vice


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09