Action Movie Friday: Men In Black II

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 II
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: 2002
Genre: action, comedy, science fiction, spy
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Rip Torn, Lara Flynn Boyle, Rosario Dawson, Tony Shalhoub, Johnny Knoxville
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Writer: Lowell Cunningham (Comics), Robert Gordon, Barry Fanaro
Distributor: Columbia Tristar
Budget: $140 Million
Box Office: $442 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 39%

Gingersnaps Rating: Two and a Half Cookies!

Summary: Five years after Kay’s retirement, Jay is the best agent of the Men In Black. However, an enemy from the MiB’s past can only be taken care of by Kay. The Kylothian Serleena wants the Light of Zartha and it’s hidden somewhere on Earth. The problem is, Kay doesn’t remember anything. Together, Kay and Jay have to find the light of Zartha and get it off Earth before Serleena can get her hands on it or worse.

Review:

The dreaded sequel slump. Before we get too far into this, let’s talk money. In between Men in Black and MiB2, the comic franchise moved from Marvel to Malibu comics. So, while a comic book movie still, not a Marvel movie. Which may or may not be a good thing given the way the story played out. In between the films, the franchise got it’s own cartoon series where some of the actors actually reprised their roles (Jeebs and Ed specifically.) And there were actual novelizations of Jay’s adventures. This movie did fairly well financially if you count the overseas ticket sales. Otherwise, domestically, it barely made back it’s production budget. (This doesn’t include marketing budget.) So, it’s surprising that Men in Black 3 got made it all, even ten years later. I’ll count that as the love of the franchise rather than love of this particular movie.

The first movie had smart writing. This movie had a bunch of little boys sitting around a table in the writing room sniggering as they made little boy humor jokes. If you love body humor jokes, you’ll love the comedy in this movie. Everything from having Serleena take the form of an underwear model to the “Ballchininnun” alien, reeks of little boys in a no girls allowed play house making little boy jokes and laughing hysterically. I have nephews. They think Mike Myer’s Cat in the Hat is hilarious.

Otherwise, the writing feels disjointed and unfocused. As if the movie couldn’t quite decide what it was going to be. The story is basically thus, 24 or 25 years ago, Kay disobeyed Zed and fooled Serleena into thinking that the great object of power she wanted had left Earth. Then he made himself forget after he left himself clues just in case things didn’t work out. Obviously, things didn’t work out. So we spend twenty minutes showing that Jay has become the best agent at MiB. Then we spend another hour of Kay tearing him down and undercutting everything that Jay has achieved. Somehow, this is supposed to be funny.

Then we throw in that Jay has met a girl named Laura who is a witness to the original murder and both are attracted to each other. I don’t say love because it’s an 88 minute movie and it takes place in about 48 hours total. Jay likes Laura. Laura likes Jay. Jay spends a bunch of time trying to impress her and Kay at the same time. There was supposed to be some parallel with Kay’s life in there somewhere (and not with Kay’s ex-wife.) And about this point is where I get confused. What type of movie is this again? Are we making dick jokes or are we having a little romance plot? Those are two completely different tones and don’t jive. They were trying to make the call back to the “It’s better to loved and lost than to not loved at all,” line of the first movie. And it could have been brilliant if they’d just cut the dick jokes and stuck to the romance. (However, Wild Wild West convinced the writer/director or somebody that having a romance focus was a bad idea. When Wild Wild West was just horribly executed.)

Honestly, if they’d stuck to the original “Kay did a thing and now the alien’s come back for revenge” plot. The movie would have been much smoother. Because that part of the story actually went well. That made coherent sense. Maybe show more of the Zarthans. So, I’m going to eat three quarters of this cookie since the very basic plot structure is the only thing that I like.

There were a bunch of pointless explosions in the very opening credits of the movie, but they weren’t the type that made me sit up and go “oh my god.” Half a cookie.

The fights were funny. There were even some good jokes about how Jay fights from Laura. As in, Jay really isn’t that great of a fighter and is a lot better when he uses his words. Kay and Zed even got to throw some punches. Overall, entertaining. One cookie.

In Men in Black, we had one women and in MiB 2, we have two! There is Laura and there is Serleena. Laura is the pretty damsel in distress whose soul purpose is to leave and cause us to feel sympathy for Jay’s pain. The only bright side of this is at least she didn’t die. Otherwise, about anything else could have stood in for her character and been just as effective. Really, her bracelet was more important than she was. And then, we have Serleena. Serleena who took the form of Lara Flynn Boyle dressed as a biker underwear model. This means mostly she’s wearing a corset and leather pants in Hollywood terms with a motorcycle jacket. But for a moment, let’s remember how she got these items. Because somehow it’s funny to make a joke that as soon as there is a woman dressed sexily in Central Park at night some guy is going to jump out and try to rape her. I despise the “let’s introduce a woman by trying to rape her and have her kill the guy” trope. It’s not funny. It’s not empowering. It trivializes a very real problem. Which in facts represents Serleena’s whole character, what could have been a very scary villain got turned into a typical male fantasy cartoonish femme fatale. Yes, and I do get the irony of what I’m saying here. I just, am going to eat the cookie before I rant any further.

Men in Black 2 expands quite a bit on the Men in Black universe special effects wise. They introduce a lot more aliens in passing. They spent most of their money on Serleena and Jeff obviously but also put a decent amount into what I’d call ‘flavor aliens.’ I’m not sure they really added that much to the movie, but I can appreciate the effort. So, while the basics of Men in Black technology is the same, Jay insists on having a new car with new technology and instead of going really fast, it flies. Really, some of the technology they showed was actually more little boy humor and completely unnecessary. I’m talking of the ‘being flushed’ sequence. Just, why? And I’m not sure why Jeeb’s version of the deneuralizer even worked. So, I’m going to take a bite out of the cookie for those two because they felt so out of place.

Men in Black 2 is low brow humor movie that wasn’t smart. Unfocused, it wasted both the female characters and couldn’t even manage an explosion that made me gasp. At least the fights were good and the universe was fun. Two and a half cookies.

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