Men in Black (1997) / Comedy-Sci Fi

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and violence
Running Time: 98 min.

Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio, Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub
Small role: David Cross
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Screenplay: Ed Solomon

Review published July 10, 1997

Like Independence Day, which also starred Will Smith (Bad Boys, Enemy of the State), here is another popcorn movie whose sole assets are special effects and sheer energy.  They both also have high doses of cheesy humor, and a half-cooked plot about aliens coming to destroy the Earth within a short period of time.

Apparently, aliens have been landing on Earth for some time, and to reduce mass hysteria, the government has a special task force to contain these "illegal aliens" and to erase the memories of any humans who find out.  An intergalactic cockroach terrorist who plots to take control of an alien galaxy comes to Earth to retrieve it and, while wearing the skin of a human, looks for two alien ambassadors to assassinate to further the plot of his race.  The aforementioned agency must track him down and stop the alien plot to avoid the destruction of the human race and all life on Earth.

Despite the rather poorly crafted screenplay and shoddy directing by Barry Sonnenfeld (Get Shorty, Addams Family Values), there's just enough entertainment value in the interesting ideas (mostly stemming from the obscure comic book) to squeeze out a good time watching.  Special effects rule the production, and while they are impressive, they also look very phony in many scenes, increasing the cheese factor even more than the bad humor could.  As a comedy, it's pretty much a failure.  As science fiction, it's nothing new outside of the comic book plot.

Men in Black is merely an escapist diversion, with lots of bad qualities but just enough good ones to make it worthwhile.  Loads of eye-candy, theater-shaking sound, and relatively good actors hamming it up and ad-libbing their way through most of the schlock add up to 90 minutes of entertainment.  Hopefully for the sequel, which is inevitable considering this film's grosses, they will have a script ready before they begin filming and a director who knows what to do with it. .

Qwipster's rating

1997 Vince Leo