Men in Black II (2000) / Sci Fi-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence and adult humor
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Rip Torn, Lara Flynn Boyle, Johnny Knoxville, Rosario Dawson, Tony Shalhoub, Patrick Warburton, Martha Stewart (cameo), Michael Jackson (cameo), Peter Graves (cameo), Barry Sonnenfeld (cameo)
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Screenplay: Robert Gordon, Barry Fanaro
Review published August 30, 2005
Men in Black II is one of those sequels that you'll probably like if you really liked the first chapter, but won't if you didn't. It delivers the goods in the humor and special effects, which are the main reasons that the first film was such a success. This second outing gives you more of the same, but never more than that. However, the freshness of the material is gone, as is the sense of discovery and wonder the first film had going for it as the initial entry in the series. It's also a needless sequel, although inevitable given how much Men in Black grossed, that will only truly satisfy people who saw the first and clamored for more.
Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones, Space Cowboys) is retired, having been neutralized, living out his days as a postmaster in a small town in Cape Cod. The agent he took under his wing, J (Will Smith, Ali), must seek him out and upload his memories in order for him to battle an alien he had a run in with many years before that now seeks to destroy the Earth.
Men in Black II's sole reason to exist is to make money for the studio, make no mistake about it. I would guess they hoped they'd make enough money to justify a third entry, so they did put some effort into it, but with so much money at stake, it also appears that they were very conservative in terms of making this a different experience than the first film. Like the Men in Black, the plot takes a backseat to the creation of funny-looking aliens and blow-you-away special effects, and once these elements are introduced, there's very little emphasis on making us care about the resolution of the plot, when it finally does appear. MIB2 spends about as much time with said plot as with the opening and closing credits; the rest is mere set-up and eye candy.
Men in Black 2 is fast-food entertainment, meant to be quickly consumed with minimal overhead. At 85 minutes, it doesn't particularly overstay its welcome, but it's also not meaty enough to remember long after you see it. As mentioned previously, I can recommend this only for people who love the first film, or who are just itching for escapist entertainment without wanting something too heavy to think about. Tolerable enough as a cotton-candy diversion, but quite mediocre for a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster.
-- Followed by Men in Black 3 (2012)
©2000 Vince Leo