Men in Black II (2002)
“Same Planet. New Scum.”
Men in Black II (2002)
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Rip Torn
Synopsis: Agent J must restore Agent K’s memory in order to save the world from an evil celestial femme fatale.
It’s a common practice amongst filmmakers lucky enough to have a hit on their hands to simply reverse the original movie’s storyline when it comes to making the inevitable sequel. So, kids that were shrunk are turned into giants, and experiments which once resulted in a man’s head being grafted onto the body of a fly now see a fly’s giant head on a man’s shoulders. It’s a kind of film-making laziness which invariably means that the film in question has no chance of joining that select group of sequels which prove to be superior to their predecessors. In the original Men in Black movie, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones – JFK, The Family) was the mentor of Agent J (Will Smith – Wild Wild West, Bad Boys II) before choosing to retire from the undercover service that covertly protects the earth from the scum of the universe. In order to do this, he had to have his memory erased by the neuraliser so, in this sequel, it’s Agent J who reintroduces Agent K to the same protocols in which K inducted J in Men in Black before they embark on more or less the same plot in which they must prevent the destruction of the earth at the hands of an errant alien before the countdown reaches zero.
Instead of Linda Fiorentino’s morgue attendant, we now have Rosario Dawson (25th Hour, Alexander) as Laura, a pizza waitress who witnesses the death of her boss at the tentacles of Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle), an alien who has assumed the shapely human form of a Victoria’s Secret model. Laura’s boss was an alien sphere of light concealed within a human skin which it promptly shed at the moment of death. Witnessing such a phenomenon would normally qualify Laura for a session with J’s neuraliser, but the agent is so smitten by her that he can’t bring himself to go messing with her mind. It seems Serleena is seeking the whereabouts of the Light of Zartha, which J’s boss Zed (Rip Torn – Airplane II: The Sequel, City Heat) thought had been launched into space years ago. That particular mission had been managed by J’s old mentor, K, which means his memories need to be retrieved so that they can ascertain the light’s whereabouts before the world is annihilated.
Men in Black II takes much from the original, while adding nothing. Marginally amusing characters like Frank the pug dog and alien pawnshop owner Jack Jeebs (Tony Shalhoub – Addams Family Values, Pain & Gain) return for no good reason, and we even get a repeat of the first movie’s money shot of an alien ship gouging the earth as it lands, only this time the ship is the size of a tea cup. At least the chemistry between J and K is intact, which is just as well because the film pretty much relies on them to see it through. Lara Flynn Boyle is fun as a celestial femme fatale, but the film struggles to throw up any fresh ideas, and there’s something a little distasteful about a cameo appearance by Michael Jackson, whom we can only assume was fully aware of the tacky speculation that he was an alien which was doing the rounds of sleazy tabloids at the time. He certainly looks as if he’s not of this world, but we now all know that was because of his destructive addiction to cosmetic surgery, a fact that kills the joke stone dead today.
(Reviewed 2nd February 2016)
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