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Men In Black II (PG-13)
Columbia Pictures
Official Site
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Producers: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes
Written by: Lowell Cunningham, Robert Gordon, and Barry Fanaro
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Rip Torn, Rosario Dawson, Lara Flynn Boyle, Patrick Warburton, Tim Blaney, and David Cross.

Rating: out of 5

ďSecond verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse!Ē

We all know the old rallying cry to keep singing some idiotic song at camp, and we all know what it means. (Apologies to those of you from cultures where you were not exposed to the best America has to offer.) Itís dumb, but there is wisdom in it. You see, the second time around, to keep it interesting, you have to do it differently than the first time, be it louder, more obnoxious, or completely incomprehensible. Would that Mr. Sonnenfeld had taken these words more to heart, because Men In Black 2, or MIIB if you like the hipper-looking initials, sings the same old song in the same old way.

Admittedly, the first verse was a lot of fun. Cool idea, great worldview, nifty gadgets, and a terrific team, K (Mr. Jones) and J (Mr. Smith). Jís buffoonery and Kís quiet competence took us on a terrific roller-coaster ride that suddenly petered out at the end. Now, five years later, the roles have reversed: J is the badass, and K has to try to recover from being a postal clerk for five years. Potential for good wacky comedy and even a little character development, right? Except the roles havenít really reversed, and all of the great build-up once again goes in the toilet. And thatís the crux of the problem: fun setup, weak payoff. Pissing away Mr. Warburtonís comic talents to demonstrate characteristics J abandons as soon as theyíre established only makes it hurt more.

So, you ask, why the hell did you give it three stars when all you can do is bitch? Well, Frank the talking Pug (Blaney, voice) was fairly hilarious, for one. I cowered in fear when I found out the talking dog was a major part, but Sonnenfeld showed restraint, and I found myself wanting more, not less, of Frank by the end. And David Cross, of ďMr. ShowĒ fame, has a gem of a small role, played as only he can. Watch for it. Enjoy. Thatís what this movie has: a lot of great small scenes that donít add up to an emotional arc.

For some reason, this comedy only added up to 83 minutes, a full 15 minutes shorter than the original. I have to assume that a hell of a lot of material was cut to improve the flow and timing of the film, and I wonder what other scenes didnít make it into the picture that will be little treasures resurrected in the ďextrasĒ section of the DVD. Then again, it didnít feel short, so that speaks for itself.

Címon, letís face it. They canít all be Minority Report, a much better science fiction film, or Scooby Doo, a more consistent (if dumber) comedy. And thatís where it sits. Do you want to have some good laughs to while away those steamy (or in some parts of the United States, wildfire-dominated) summer afternoons? MIIB wonít make you work for it, wonít make you think about it, and wonít make you feel too bad about spending a few bucks.

To you New Yorkers and other urban folks who never get matinee prices, a DVD and a really big TV could go a long way with this one, but if you donít have the huge TV set, shell out and enjoy the special effects on the silver screenóthey wonít translate well to the small.

óReed Oliver


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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