*Men in Black II (PG-13)
Once again Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones team up with director Barry Sonnenfeld (Get Shorty) to invigorate the infectious camp sci-fi buddy comedy they introduced in 1997 with the original Men in Black.
Will Smith brings a new level of charm and comic timing to the role of Agent Jay, a wise-cracking, culture-fixing alien hunter. After realizing that only agent Kay (Jones) knows the secret to ridding the world of the evil alien "Kylothian" creature Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle), Jay wakes Kay out of his "drone" life as a grumpy postal clerk in Truro, Massachusetts to battle aliens again. It's "the last suit you'll ever wear -- again," Jay tells Kay with happy coolness. Although the newness of the MIB concept has worn off, there's plenty of slick and witty post-modern humor to savor in this eccentrically clever romp.
Since "neutralizing" agent Kay's memory at the end of their last assignment, Agent Jay has taken over his mentor's spot as the No. 1 "go-to" man for the elite MIB government organization run by Zed (Rip Torn). Agent Jay has been suffering through a litany of unsuitable partners since putting Kay (the all-time hero of the MIB organization) out of commission, but he hits a new low when Zed hires Frank, the overzealous pug (returning from the original MIB), to assist him. Hilarity ensues as Frank momentarily dons a black suit and tie to disguise his canine body.
The movie kicks off with Peter Graves (television's Mission Impossible) doing a Twilight Zoneinspired television expos on the Men in Black that includes a short dramatized history of the initial contact between the MIB and Serleena (Boyle). The sequence reveals that the evil alien was expelled from Earth some 40 odd years ago by the MIB and serves as a B-movie sketch history that's later referenced in a full-scale flashback by the MIB to understand the danger that Earth faces from Serleena's quest for "the light."
Serleena disguises her gruesome snake-entwined countenance in the form of a sexy Victoria's Secret lingerie model. When a Central Park mugger attacks Serleena shortly after her tiny spaceship lands, she very efficiently swallows him but finds he takes up too much space in her model-sized belly.
Serleena's half-witted accomplice, Scrad-and-Charlie (Johnny Knoxville -- MTV's Jackass), is a two-headed scuzball wearing Michael Jackson's red multi-zippered jacket from the '80s "Beat It" video. The visual dichotomy between Boyle's slinky-and-stacked Serleena and Knoxville's wacky "thing-with-two-heads" adds a constant influx of humorous curiosity and confusion to the movie. A cameo appearance by Michael Jackson proves to be an especially scary alien sighting.
There's a parade of creatures on display, such as a return from the Worm Guys (from the first MIB) who end up paying a heavy price for trying to protect Agent Jay's love interest in the comely form of Laura (Rosario Dawson -- Josie and the Pussycats). Jay takes a special liking to Laura after she witnesses an alien murder and chooses to leave her memory intact to follow up on their romantic feelings for one another later. Naturally Laura's hitherto unseen importance to saving the planet becomes foremost, and Jay's hopes for emotional commitment get pushed to the background.
But, as with most spy jobs -- and buddy films -- loneliness comes with the territory. Agent Jay has become an instructional voice of reason to humanity and Agent Kay is just as undaunted and matter-of-fact as ever. There's even a cinematic justice to Lara Flynn Boyle showing up in MIB II behind Linda Fiorentino's (The Last Seduction) appearance in the original. The actresses share a certain enigmatic synchronicity that bears a mocking charm and dry humor. But when Serleena opens her mouth and the snakes start squirming, you'll be glad the Men in Black are back to protect the planet, um, you know, where we live.
-- Cole Smithey