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MEN IN BLACK III Review - Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reunite without skipping a beat in likable film

 Comment on MEN IN BLACK III Review - Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reunite without skipping a beat in likable film

Review of Men in Black III - Jemaine Clement makes a fun alien villain

3 and a half stars

Years of production delays and rewrites lead to the moment some people have been waiting for; the long-delayed Men in Black sequel Men in Black III and the reunion of franchise leads Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as Agents J and K of the MIB agency.

Barry Sonnenfeld's third installment of the popular sci-fi franchise is familiar, safe and comfortable without a single surprise to shake up the 3D adventure. Still, it feels good to simply sit back and watch Smith and Jones reunite and riff off each other without skipping a beat.

A prison break on a secret lunar facility early in the movie sets up the action as Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) has to deal with his longtime nemesis, the alien villain Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) who's loose in New York City and up to no good.

After a gooey confrontation involving a giant alien fish at a Chinatown restaurant, Boris travels back in time to kill a young Agent K (Josh Brolin) on the day of the Apollo 11 moon launch and Agent J follows him to 1969 in order to save his partner.

Emma Thompson steps aside from drama to showcase her impressive comic talents as Agent O, the new director of the MIB agency and a woman with soft spot for K.

Bill Hader delivers a quick burst of fun as pop star Andy Warhol holding court in The Factory. Boardwalk Empire star Michael Stuhlbarg makes a switch from his menacing work as gangster Arnold Rothstein in the HBO period drama and brings some much-needed whimsy to the movie as Griffin, a soft-spoken alien capable of seeing different future outcomes.

Flight of the Conchords star Jemaine Clement is plenty of fun as the villainous Boris the Animal. Clement is unrecognizable as Boris with bulging eyes, a missing arm and piranha-like teeth. He makes Boris a snarling clown; more ludicrous than menacing, which suits the comic book-inspired adventure perfectly.

Josh Brolin mirrors Jones' facial ticks, voice inflections and frustrated gaze with pinpoint accuracy. Brolin provides a dead on impersonation of Jones as K but it's disappointing that the story doesn't provide him a chance to really sprint with the role.

Just like his famous leads, returning director Barry Sonnenfeld follows the MIB formula without a hint of risk-taking despite the fact a surprise or two would have helped the movie immensely.

Sonnenfeld's army of scribes, Etan Cohen, Michael Soccio, Jeff Nathanson and David Koepp and Lowell Cunningham, creator of the original MIB comic book series, supply plenty of witty banter, alien skirmishes, a flashy climax atop the Apollo 11 rocket and a sentimental explanation for why K chooses J as his partner years into the future.

By the time the closing credits roll and Pitbull borrows heavily from the Mickey & Sylvia song Love is Strange for the MIB III theme song "Back in Time," it's safe to say that Sonnenfeld, Smith and Jones have climbed past all the obstacles to deliver a pleasant diversion and perhaps a small surprise for those cynics stuffed with production gossip and expecting a disaster.

Still, franchises do need surprises to keep the story humming and a slight helping of risk to keep fans guessing and ultimately wanting more.

Men in Black III, the safest sequel imaginable; comes up short.

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Scriptwriter: Etan Cohen, Lowell Cunningham, David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson, Michael Soccio

Cinematographer: Ben Smithard

Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Michael Stuhlbarg

Editor: Wayne Wahrman, Don Zimmerman

Production Designer: Bo Welch

Composer: Danny Elfman

Running Time: 106 minutes

Producers: Amblin Entertainment, Hemisphere Media Capital, Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ, Media Magik Entertainment, Parkes/MacDonald Productions

Rating: Rated PG-13

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