A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 282 – Men in Black

Men in Black – December 7th, 2010

After the past two nights full of screeching metal and overwhelming effects and painful attempts at humor we decided to head in a slightly different direction tonight. Still got aliens, still got some action, still got a threat against the world as we know it. But the action is less explosive and the effects are less of an assault on the senses and the humor is actually funny.

Of course, this is largely a comedy movie. Sure, it’s science fiction action, but the vast majority of the movie is supposed to be funny. Everything’s played for laughs, from the aliens in disguise to the way the main characters deal with themselves and each other. About the only thing that isn’t flat out funny is the imminent destruction of Earth, but even that’s got jokes made about it. It’s all done for laughs, and it’s all done well.

This is the story of a mysterious agency that’s no longer overseen by the government. They deal with aliens. Specifically they keep track of aliens coming to, living on and leaving Earth, as well as any issues that might arise in relation to the aliens here. They’re secret and they keep it that way by erasing the memories of the people they deal with. They dress in black suits, they drive big cars and they have fancy guns and gizmos to keep things nice and civilized. And when one of them retires (and has his memory erased) they go looking for a new recruit. The movie is pretty much his orientation.

Enter James Edwards, a New York City Police detective who has a run-in with an alien and then with Agent K. Edwards gets recruited just in time for a big alien bug to kill some alien royalty and try to steal a galaxy. What’s great about this is that it really is just an orientation. Even though yes, it is dangerous and yes, it is a big deal, the rest of the agency treats it largely as just another day at the office. The tone here is so pitch perfect I don’t even know how to describe it. Tommy Lee Jones as K delivers every line with just the right combination of experience and humor without once making it seem like he’s milking a bit for humor’s sake. To look at him you’d think he’s the straight man, but he’s not. But then, Will Smith’s James (Agent J) isn’t the precisely straight man either, since he gets to crack smartass jokes all over the place. They play off each other and it works perfectly. They banter while they get shit done, with K leading the way and J making mistakes but catching on quickly, which is why they recruited him in the first place. At no point do you really think he can’t do the job. It’s just a steep learning curve.

Of course, while J and K are at the heart of the movie and they contribute a hell of a lot to the success of it all, there are some great secondary players too. Linda Fiorentino plays Dr. Laurel Weaver, a city coroner who apparently has had suspicions about aliens many times and had her memory wiped repeatedly. I love Weaver. She’s a fantastic character with a couple of snappy lines of her own. There’s Rip Torn as Zed (must be Canadian), the head of the agency who handles it all with gruff ease. And then there’s Vincent D’Onofrio as the bug who’s causing all the trouble. Now, he’s all but unrecognizable by the end of this movie and still I can’t see him on Law and Order: Criminal Intent without thinking that he’s wearing “an Edgar suit” as the bug does in this movie.

Combine everyone together with some great aliens and a plot that’s got just the right amount of doom so as to not overshadow the many humorous moments (and oh, there are so many) and you’ve got a really fun movie. It hits all the right notes for me. It’s certainly comfort viewing and it’s the source of more than a couple of references Andy and I make frequently. And you’ll notice that we’re not going to be reviewing the sequel tomorrow. This is because we don’t own it. This is intentional. I prefer to keep this one on its own. It was just right.

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

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