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Movie review: Men in Black 3

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I will admit: I tend to have a bias against movies with the number "3" in the title. If there's ever a dead giveaway that all imagination has been sapped from a movie, it's that second sequel (as if the first sequel wasn't bad enough).

Sure, the filmmaker can say, "Oh, I planned to make it a trilogy all along." Tell me another.

There are exceptions, but not many of them. Still, I'm willing to add Men in Black 3 to the very short list of third outings that actually work - better by far than the second film, perhaps even better than the first.

The director once again is Barry Sonnenfeld, but the key player here is one who isn't even mentioned in the credits. While the writer of record is Etan Cohen, two other (and probably better) writers are listed on IMDB: David Koepp and Jeff Nathanson, both of whom have lengthy lists of strong films on their filmographies.

But, really, I don't care who gets the credit: The point is that the script is better for this film than either of the previous two. The first one had the disadvantage of being an origin story: trying to tell an actual story, while introducing the universe of the comic books on which it was based. The second one was simply a rehash of the first with a slight twist, bigger special effects and weaker jokes.

But MIB3 actually has a solid plot, one with credible sci-fi roots and twists but also one with heart. It throws off the jokiness in which this series has been mired to create action and adventure built in service to story, rather than vice versa (as has been Sonnenfeld's curse as a director).

The film begins with a prison break by an alien known as Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords), who doesn't appreciate his nickname: "It's just Boris," he growls, as he dispatches victims with large, thorn-like stakes that shoot out of his palms. He shows up in New York and grabs a time-travel device that allows him to go back to the day in 1969 when he was captured by a member of the Men in Black corps: Agent K.

In the present, K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith) are on Boris' trail, even as J complains about how emotionally closed-off K remains from his partner. But when Boris jumps into the past, the present undergoes a major change: J wakes up the next morning to discover that K has not only disappeared but that no one except him seems to remember the crusty senior agent.

This review continues on my website.