July 3, 2002
Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Lara Flynn
Boyle, Rosario Dawson, Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub, Patrick Warburton,
Johnny Knoxville, and the voice of Tim Blaney
Older children to adults
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Men in Black II
By Movieguide Magazine
- Hollywood, please remember that high-concept movies need stories.
Men in Black II looks great in the commercials, but it plays like a
gargantuan, irreverent dud. The buzz coming out of the screening of critics
was "What happened?" The pop question is "Why is this only an 82 minute movie?"
The answer is that it doesn't matter how long a movie is or how short if it
doesnt have a story to tell.
The opening is very clever. It shows Peter Graves from a black and white
television show entitled Mysteries from Space showing a hokey science
fiction story about this princess landing on earth to get the help of a super
secret society called Men in Black to protect a device, the light of Zartha,
that could blow up the universe. As the princess is handing the device to
the Men in Black, another alien, who is a pile of veggie snakes named Serleena,
an evil Kylothian creature who wants to destroy the princess and her people,
Now, years later, Serleena is racing through the galaxy destroying planets,
looking for the light of Zartha. Jay, played with verve by Will Smith, happens
upon Serleena's evil plot to destroy the world. The only one who could possibly
help him save the world is Agent Kay, played by Tommy Lee Jones, whose memory
was erased at the end of the first Men in Black movie. Jay goes to
the lowly post office where Kay works, surrounded by aliens disguised as human
beings. Jay tries to convince Kay that hes an agent from Men in Black.
By the time they get back to New York, Serleena has already taken over the
Men in Black headquarters and has done nasty things to all sorts of people,
including Zed, played by Rip Torn. The rest of the movie involves Kay being
re-neuralized, finding the Light of Zartha, saving the planet, and sending
the princess back home.
Men in Black II is crowded with sight gags, some highly sexual, such
as the Ballchinian who clearly has--and we hate to say this--male testicles
hanging from his chin, and the worms who dance with the love interest in clearly
phallic ways. A few less sight gags may have worked. As it is, the constant
violence and sight gags produce an overload.
The real problem with the movie is that the producers did not think through
the story. Instead of character development, there is jumping conflict. Kay
goes from being de-neuralized to being a super agent in the blink of an eye.
The audience knows that once Kay gets his memory back, hes won, so the movie
is one long resolution with no sense of jeopardy. All of the plot problems
could have been easily fixed in the scriptwriting, and the fixes are so clear
that the movie could be used as an example of bad scriptwriting, in the tradition
of Mission to Mars, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and A.I. This
is disappointing because everybody was looking forward to the movie. When
filmmakers find themselves with these problems, they often make the mistake
of throwing in more sex and violence to try to fill the plot holes, which
is the case here.
The worldview is clearly eclectic. There is a "God bless you", a reference
to the occult practice of astrology, and a reference to multiple verses, all
treated with irreverence. In addition to this, there are more than 25 obscenities
These filmmakers have done some great movies, including Schindler's List
and Amistad, but they have also done some clunkers, such Wild Wild
West and The Crew (with Richard Dreyfuss). Men in Black II
has the same problems that these two latter films had. And this movie needed
Dont be fooled by the initial popularity of Men in Black II. Like
Planet of the Apes, people will come away disappointed.
Please address your comments to:
Amy Pascal, Chairman
John Calley, Chairman/CEO
Sony Pictures Entertainment
10202 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232-3195
Phone: (310) 244-4000
Fax: (310) 244-2626
Web Page: www.spe.sony.com/
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