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Men In Black 2 - Click to view! MEN IN BLACK 2 (2002)
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith.
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.
MPAA rating: PG-13

There's something to be said about Frank the Talking Pug. Aside from being able to talk, he's hilariously cute and funny, and he sings "I Will Survive" better than any other dog I've heard.

Oh yeah, and then there's Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith too. Summer 2002 marks their return as America's favorite comic team of alien investigators in Men in Black 2. While the movie faired relatively well in the box office, it serves as evidence that the sequel is never as good as the original, except for those rare occasions in which you're comparing Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers to its predecessor, or The Empire Strikes Back to Star Wars.

Smith fits the shoes of Agent J quite well. It's been five years since he was inducted into the Men in Black, and we find that he's come a long way in short amount of time. Around HQ, J calls most of the shots and takes commands only from the chief, Zed (Rip Torn). However, one night while riding a giant worm bareback through a subway tunnel (the things these guys do in their spare time), J stumbles across a conspiracy plotted by the evil Kylothian Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) to find an alien artifact that's supposedly hidden somewhere on Earth, and, quite conveniently, in New York City. The only trouble is that J's former partner, K (Jones), is the only person who knows where it's located, seeing as he was in charge of the operation twenty years earlier. K also had his memory neuralized (erased) upon his retirement from the MIB five years ago, so getting him back poses a problem for J and comic relief for audiences. What's more, if the artifact is not found and removed from the Earth by midnight the next day, the entire planet will explode, face doom and destruction, or some other horrible nonsense. With Serleena holding all of the other MIB agents hostage, it's up to J, Frank the Pug, and the Worm Guys to restore K to his former position as an agent and stop Serleena before it's too late. It's your typical predictable plot line with a few flaws, and yet the movie still has enough elements to stand on its own two, or three, or four, feet.

The storyline is rather bland this time around, but Will Smith is who brings it to life. It seems as if he's mastered J's character, and his development since the first MIB is astounding. All of that said, Smith just isn't as funny in the sequel, nor is Tommy Lee Jones. There's a unique chemistry between the two as far as their roles as MIB agents go, and it bodes well, but between them both there are only a few chuckles here and there. As Agent J, Smith's best moments are immediately after he neuralizes a group of people, proceeds to gripe at them, neuralizes them again, and then makes up some off-the-wall story to explain to them what they were doing prior to the alien encounter. Jones plays the stoic Agent K well, but sometimes it seems as if he sinks too deep into his role; the result is rather inflexible acting. Boyle, on the other hand, fills the role of Serleena perfectly. It's hard to imagine her not being evil in everyday life as her performance is probably the most convincing of the three.

Aiding the story's progress and adding even more humor are the cast of CGI aliens that help and/or hinder the Men in Black. The lovable Worm Guys make a return from the first MIB, but they lack any gut-busting lines and lose most of the audience's favor. Frank the Pug scores better, but unfortunately he later becomes annoying too. Even Michael Jackson turns up somewhere, but this is best left a surprise, as it truly is one of the funnier moments.

Even with these few drawbacks, the film boasts a decent soundtrack, featuring Will Smith's hit single "Nod Ya Head (Black Suits Comin')" as the predominant movie theme. Most of the other songs are instrumentals composed by Danny Elfman, but Tim Blaney, the voice of Frank the Pug, also records his comical version of "I Will Survive" on the disc.

MIB2 makes for an average sequel and a fine film to see if you have nothing better to do with your summer. Don't expect the impact of the original though. Also keep in mind that the film is rated PG-13 for some crude language, and the alien scenes (particularly the ones with exploding heads) may frighten small children. Discretion should be used for any viewers who might be offended by some obscenities and/or fantasy violence.
- Rick Foux
July 2002
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