I went to see "Men in Black II" with high hopes, believing that the film
had the potential to be one of the rare sequels that would improve on
the original. After all, it had been five years since we were first
introduced to the super secret quasi-government agency that polices the
various alien species living on Earth - surely that was sufficient time
to cook up a script even more inventive than the first one.
Silly me. "Men in Black II" is just a typical sequel, uneven as hell and
only about a third as entertaining as the original. The film has its
moments, to be sure, but to best enjoy it you will need to lower your
expectations. A lot. No, more than that.
"MiB" ended with Agent Jay (Will Smith) using his neuralizer to erase
the memories of his partner, Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones), allowing the
tortured soul to rejoin the woman of his dreams and live a simple, happy
life in a tiny Massachusetts town, blissfully unaware of any
The sequel opens with Jay hitting the mean streets of NYC with Agent Tee
(the always-wonderful Patrick Warburton), having neuralized several
partners he deemed unacceptable (the absence of Linda Fiorentino, Jay's
new teammate at the end of the original, is explained with a throwaway
line). Tee's time in the service will be brief; his hotheaded behavior
triggers a major tantrum from a giant alien slug living near a subway
But the real threat comes with the arrival of Serleena (Lara Flynn
Boyle), a shape-shifting sorta plant thingy that takes the form of a
woman from a Victoria's Secret ad. Veteran makeup artist Rick Baker
created the aliens for the film, but nothing he cooked up comes even
close to being as scary as Boyle simply standing in her underwear, the
hardened features on her face glaring above her emaciated frame. Yikes!
Does anybody actually consider that grim face and skeletal body sexy?
NOTE: Another celebrity with a frightening face pops up later in the
movie, but I won't ruin the joke by revealing the identity here.
After a quick funny-gross binge and purge by Serleena, we learn that she
intends to locate an item that will give her the power to rule and/or
destroy worlds at her whim. To that end, she slaughters an alien pizza
parlor owner and secures the assistance of a two-headed nitwit (Johnny
Enter Jay, with motor-mouthed talking dog Frank (voiced by Tim Blaney)
in tow. Feeling the loneliness of being a man without a name, Jay
interviews murder witness Laura Vasquez (Rosario Dawson), but fails to
neuralize her afterwards. During a subsequent briefing with MiB head
honcho Zed (Rip Torn), Jay learns that crucial information about the
case lies in the excised memories of Kay.
So the former NYC cop takes off to reunite with the craggy-faced Kay,
restore his neuralized mind and save the world from Serleena.
Will Smith is a gifted performer, but the film doesn't really begin
until he and Tommy Lee Jones become a team again. Once the brash kid
hooks back up with his deadpan partner, the film recaptures at least a
fraction of the magic of the original. We get two terrific gags
concerning tiny civilizations and a tart racial joke involving an
autopilot, but alas, the script soon sinks back into sequel-standard,
employing the "if it worked once in the original, beat it to death now"
mindset. As a result, pawnshop owner Tony Shalhoub, ex-mortician clerk
David Cross and the worm guys make extended redundant appearances.
Clocking in at just over 80 minutes (minus the closing credits), "Men in
Black II" feels about as necessary as "Ghostbusters II." Aside from the
aforementioned sequences, expect much less wit, and far more busyness.
Who knows, perhaps if you lower your expectations enough, you will be
able to savor the occasional moments of inspiration in this pedestrian
Copyright © 2002 Edward Johnson-Ott