Men in Black 3 had a disastrous production history, which included director Barry Sonnenfeld starting principal photography without a finished script and screenwriters writing the dialogue literally minutes before the scenes were shot (four writers worked on the script, although only Etan Cohen is credited). Considering that history, the film turned out surprisingly coherent. Will Smith’s easygoing performance as Agent J and the alien make-up magic of Rick Baker provide enough continuity for us not to get too distracted by the movie’s huge lapses in time travel logic. But although Agent J and Agent K’s “conviction is almost convincing”, this third installment owes its existence “certainly more to profit than to artistic impulse” (Thomas Sotinel, Le Monde).
Central to the movie’s plot (and to its screenwriting problems) is the idea that Agent J has to travel back in time to collaborate with a younger version of Agent K in fighting off the evil alien Boris (Jemaine Clement, clearly enjoying himself here). It is after this time jump that we encounter a very enjoyable impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones by Josh Brolin, who plays the younger version of Jones’s K. Other than confronting us with young K and some retro aliens, the filmmakers do not seem interested in doing much with the 1969 setting. There are some half-hearted attempts at humor at the expense of Mick Jagger and especially Andy Warhol. But one wonders why they put that stuff in, considering it will go way over the head of the target audience.
The story ambles along enjoyably. Smith’s quips are not particularly funny, but they don’t get on your nerves either. And “at the end awaits a surprise that enhances the whole (…) and leads to a fortunate change of tone” (Jordi Costa, El País). But with a movie like this the question remains: why spend $250 million to make something that the viewer has forgotten as soon as he sets foot outside the movie theatre?