Action Movie Friday: Men in Black

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: Men in Black
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: 1997
Genre: science fiction, spy, action, comedy
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Rip Torn, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D’Oniofrio, Tony Shalhoub
Director: Barry Sonenfeld
Writer: Ed Solomon (Film), Lowell Cunningham (comic)
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Budget: $90 Million
Box Office: $588 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%

Gingersnaps Rating: Four and a Half cookies!


NYPD Policeman James Edwards is recruited into an organization that monitors and polices all alien activity on planet Earth. And in the his first few days on the job finds himself thrown into the middle of a galactic crisis. An assassination gone wrong puts a powerful object hidden on Earth at risk and the galaxy is willing to destroy Earth to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. Jay’s unorthodox thinking and methods put him at odds with his mentor Kay, but the two are the only hope for Earth’s survival.


Here is a Marvel movie before there really things such as Marvel movies. It isn’t a hard stretch to say that the success of Men In Black led to the development of things like Spiderman. Blade was released the next year by New Line Cinemas. Back in 1997 a $588 million gross worldwide on a $90 million dollar budget was a lot of money. It’s odd that it took 5 years to do the sequel and another ten to do a third movie. But things I understand got caught in production hell and Will Smith insisting on many script rewrites.

Men in Black has what I call “smart” and “funny” writing. The script is smart. It tells you what is coming while being humorous about it. It’s entertaining and it is done in such a way that you don’t have to think too much but doesn’t come off as stupid. The story is a typical fish out of water tail, so the audience is learning along with Jay what all these things Kay says mean. It’s a gimmick and it’s a gimmick because it works. Then we get to the end and are delivered an emotional punch because the story isn’t exactly what we expected after all. And, there is even set up for the next movie in what seems to be a throw away line from Jay. Go figure. Fast, punchy and funny, just the way I like my action movies. One Gingersnap.

Explosions, there are several explosions that could work, I’ll go with the kharmic justice of Edgar’s truck being destroyed after his verbal abuse to Beatrice. That works for me. One Gingersnap.

There is actually a fight scene in this movie and I’m calling the one at the end where Jay learns an important lesson, when the bug is bigger than you are, fighting it isn’t going to help. It’s time to use your words. The ones that he’s so good at throwing about all through the movie. Still, it was entertaining to watch. One Gingersnap.

There are pretty much two women in this story, Beatrice and Laurell (outside of Mrs. Reggie who we see for five minutes.) I feel a lot of sympathy towards Beatrice. Edgar was a horrible guy before being eat by a bug (kharmic justice again) and we never do find out what happened to her in the ending newspaper headline wrap ups that Jay looked through. Laurell Weaver on the other hand is different. She’s shown to be an intelligent woman with a small amount of power being a Medical Examiner. She also is written extremely sexist, so much that she comes onto Jay over a dead body. The way Jay responds is just as sexist. I’m not sure if this was meant to be funny, equal opportunity sexism or just being dense on part of the writers. She does end up kidnapped, frees herself and in the end gets a new job. I’m not sure this makes her a ‘strong’ character. They tried to claim or the character tried to claim she was being sexually independent on coming onto Jay. Just, there is a difference between sexual independence and being unprofessional to downright sexual harassment of Jay on the job. It puts me on the fence about her. She’s a good character to have a conversation about with on what to do and what not to do. Be like Laurell, fight your kidnappers. Don’t be like Laurell. Don’t sexually harass random people trying to do their jobs while you’re on the job. No matter how hot they are! And because I’m on the fence, I’m going to eat half the cookie.

The world building and the special effects of this movie still amazingly hold up almost two decades later. (Okay, let’s not discuss how scary that is, because wow, this film is 19 years old.) I am firm in my belief that you don’t need hundreds of millions of dollars to make a good film with decent effects and films like these are the reason why. The film looks believable. The science looks believable. The astronomy is actually on point. There really is something called the Great Attractor. The World’s Fair was held in 1964 in Queens. There are little things sprinkled throughout the movie that make it feel more authentic down to the design of the MiB office. So, one gingersnap.

MiB is a fun movie that delivers on plot and entertainment. Sadly, Laurell is trying too hard to be an independent woman and falls over into the line of skeevy. Four and a half gingersnaps.


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