16 July 2002 | Buddy-51
`Originality,' is, almost by definition, a one-time thing. In 1997, the original `Men in Black' struck a nerve with movie audiences by showing that even a big budget blockbuster, heavily loaded down with state-of-the-art, computer-generated special effects, could still manage to seem light on its feet. The makers of that film pulled off this feat of gravitational legerdemain by coming up with a concept and a script overflowing with creativity, wit, imagination and a cachet of `hipness' to go along with its tone of anarchic playfulness.
Well, five years have passed and we now have `Men in Black II' to confirm what most of us suspected all along: that works that rely on `uniqueness' as their prime selling point are rarely ever able to duplicate their success a second time around. Five years can be a lifetime in pop culture and what seemed `cool' one summer can appear decidedly `old hat' the next. Without that aura of cutting edge newness that defined the original, `Men in Black II' seems like just another loud, over-the-top summertime blockbuster.
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are back playing Jay and Kay, agents for the government's top secret organization whose job it is to monitor the activities of the thousands of aliens who have secretly infiltrated earth's societies and to help protect the planet from any possible threat from interstellar space. Smith and Jones still appear to be quite comfortable in their roles and they are aided by Lara Flynn Boyle, as Serleena, the baddest alien this side of Darth Vader, and Rip Torn, delightful as Zed, the slightly cracked head of the Men in Black agency.
Although the special effects in this film are, as one would expect in this day and age, astonishing and virtually seamless, the same can definitely NOT be said for the film's screenplay. The story moves along at a fairly fast clip, but it rarely makes us laugh. In fact, the script comes across as undisciplined nonsense, lacking both logic and coherence. Unlike in the earlier film, we get the sense that literally everything here has been placed at the service of the special effects. There's an awful lot of running and bouncing around but rarely to any point or purpose. Indeed, we end up feeling at the end somehow more exhausted and drained than exhilarated and euphoric. It would appear that director Barry Sonnenfeld thought that if he could just keep the thing MOVING we wouldn't notice that he had nothing new to offer in this retread. It doesn't work. In fact, if `Men in Black II' shows us anything, it is that just because something MOVES doesn't mean that it can't bore us at the same time.