Back In Black

A sequel that falls flat on its Ray-bans.

The Men in Black have resurfaced after five years in the cellar, having no galactic monsters to battle yet, but the resurgence of a Kylothian alien, Serleena, who must have shared blood (or scale) with the Gorgons has ruffled the tailcoats of the top brass at MIB headquarters.

Agent J (Will Smith from “Ali”) has been merited status of top dog at HQs, filling in for veteran Agent K, who was last seen handing shades and shoes in for a starched civilian life. Agent J is wearing out his boots and his patience on the job, syncing a haplessly hermitic life with one devoted to the alien policing body. Unable to get along with his assigned partners, he’s reduced to working with an aspiring alien mutt with canine visions of puppy power.

While Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) is transfigured into a Victoria's Secret model, she gathers a troupe of no-good aliens to help her find the Light of Zortha, which will help her assume power on an extra-terrestrial planet. Agent K, the only one who knows the location of this object, is busy managing a post office somewhere, oblivious to his history before he was de-neuralized. J has to collect K, restore his memory and stop the Medusa-like monster from destroying the third rock from the sun.

The movie is a patent attempt at resurrecting the iconic power of Ray Bans - even Will Smith "nods his head" to the signature of the shades. But for all the techno-wizardry, both on set and off, the film broke ground in its first attempt in 1997, and barely moves dust with this, its second outing. The plot can be pronounced pithily, the acting will earn no one a prize, and the special effects are simply passé, but a smart script and defined comic timing still break you up in mirth. The ribaldry tends to get racy, and a distracted ear may let the undertone in dialogue slip.

Flynn Boyle sheds her buttoned-down suits for this, showing there’s more to her than previously met the eye. Playing the part of an evil seductress to the snarl, her new look is sure to win her quite a few new male fans. The film’s ending gets soppy, displaying an unfortunate trend of good films turning sour after an hour, but even so, the revival of old favourites from the prequel (both alien and animal alike) and the debut of a number of new ones, makes MIB 2 an entertaining, though abbreviated, piece of pie.

This article was first published on 01 Aug 2002.