For decades, Americans have been obsessed with the idea of extraterrestrial life. For the same decades, Hollywood has been indulging their fantasies with everything from “E.T.” to “Independence Day.” With “Men in Black,” though, Hollywood has turned a new leaf in the endless stream of creature features.
“Men in Black” is creative. It brings original special effects and plot ideas and has the same type (but actually funny) over-the-top humor that earned “Mars Attacks” the worst reviews of any film since “Ishtar.”
“Men in Black” is about two secret agents, J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) who work for an ultra-secret government agency that controls and polices alien life on Earth. They are armed with unlimited power and more technology than the makers of “Jurassic Park.”
The outrageousness of the plot is really just part of the fun; “Men in Black” is no more believable than “Independence Day,” but it has twice the humor.
Apparently residents of warring galaxies have brought their troubles to Earth, and it’s up to J and K to stop one of the groups from blowing up the planet.
The best part is K’s “neuralizer,” which J refers to as a “memory zapper thingy.” It allows the agents to erase the memory of any witnesses to alien encounters on Earth. It’s the perfect answer to the people who fear government conspiracies like Roswell really exist.
“Men in Black” goes gleefully over the top and never looks back. Jones is hilarious, although he almost never laughs himself. While known for his dramatic roles, Jones is a funny guy.
Of course, as “Fresh Prince” viewers can attest, so is Smith. He gets to laugh at Jones, laugh at himself and make constant cracks about his sci-fi surroundings.
Also delightfully silly are Linda Fiorentino as a morbid coroner and Vincent D’Orofrio as an out-of-control alien. I won’t give away the story, but the movie cries “sequel” loud and clear with the typically distinctive Fiorentino in a leading role.
“Men in Black” is the third in a series of hits for director Barry Sonnenfeld who also directed “Addams Family Values” and “Get Shorty.”
The humor in “Men in Black” is more like that in “Values,” but the overall mood of the film is exactly like that of the sidesplitting “Get Shorty.”
“Men in Black” is a charming departure from the normal event movie. Not very much, but enough to save a few bucks on the action and funnel it into a screenwriter with a sense of humor.
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