A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Men in Black

December 7, 2010

Men in Black

Every once in a while a movie comes along that lives up to its own hype and marketing. I remember seeing the teaser for this movie about a year before the movie came out. It involved Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith shooting down a flying saucer while wearing snappy suits. The posters all featured the two of them in silhouette with their names in big block letter underneath. Mr. Jones. Mr. Smith. It was a catchy ad campaign that made me actually curious about the movie, and when I did see it I was delighted, because it’s a witty, fun, and entertaining. It has adventure, explosions, the threat of global destruction and a very snappy script.

I never read the comic books that this movie was based on, but I do enjoy the films of director Barry Sonnefeld. Both of the Adams Family movies are a lot of fun and Get Shorty is one of my favorites. (The inexplicably awful Wild Wild West didn’t come out until after this movie, so I stand by my assessment that Sonnefeld is a competent director with a knack for special effects, comedy and quick repartee. The movie itself is like a combination of The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonsai Across the Eighth Dimension and Ghostbusters. Which is high praise from me.

James Edwards is a sassy New York undercover cop (Will Smith in his Bad Boys persona) who gets caught up in something bigger than he could have expected when it turns out that a fugitive he ran down was actually an alien assassin sent to Earth on some kind of urgent mission. The laconic and deadpan Agent K recognises that Edwards has some extraordinary qualities and invites him to become an agent in a super-secret agency that monitors and regulates all extra-terrestrial activity on Earth. The Men in Black.

It’s amazing just how well this movie works, considering the built-by-committee method by which it was constructed. The production was plagued by last-minute re-writes as major plot points were in flux right up to post-production. It never should have worked, but it does.

Some of the credit has to go to Sonnefeld, who keeps the action going right along and seems to effortlessly blend comedy with adventure and science fiction. And some has to go to the wonderful performances of everybody involved. Tommy Lee Jones almost never cracks a smile throughout the entire film. His Agent K is a mentor to Smith’s Agent J and straight man for most of the great humor. Will Smith is his usual charismatic self, and is just fun to watch as he effortlessly adapts to a world of aliens and strangeness. Support is provided by Rip Torn as the unflappable Agent Zed, Vincent D’Onofrio as the evil bug in the Edgar suit and Linda Florentino as Laurel Weaver, the ME in the local morgue who keeps uncovering alien activity on Earth, only to be neuralized. There’s even a totally unrecognisable Tony Shalhoub as one of the aliens and a quick cameo by David Cross as a receptionist. Everybody in this movie is great.

As with many other favorite movies in our collection this movie is frequently referenced by us in our daily lives. We often imitate D’Onofrio’s demand for sugar. In water. Whenever we feel the need to clean in our apartment we tell each other to get a decorator in her because… Damn. As we were watching this tonight we were quoting lines ahead of the movie in anticipation, because it’s just so irresistibly well written. And because the delivery of the lines by the actors is so perfect.

I had a lot of fun watching this tonight. We do NOT own the lackluster sequel, which like Blues Brothers 2000 and Highlander II resides in the category of movies I refuse to acknowledge even exist. We’ll have to wait and see if the third film is any good at all.

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December 7, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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