A review of “Men in Black 2” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for language, intense action

Run Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

 

 

 Tis the season to be bored silly at the Cineplex, but “MIB2” is in keeping with this season’s stable of high-quality summer surprises.

Hip, black-suited Jay (a very capable Will Smith) is still in the business of monitoring extra-terrestrial activity on earth, or, according to MIB’s unsullied mission statement: “protecting the earth from the scum of the universe”.  While investigating a routine alien crime with the help of his temporary partner Frank (a wise-cracking pug), Jay uncovers a diabolical plot engineered by an evil Kylothian monster named Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle).

 Serleena has returned to earth in the guise of a Victoria’s Secret model, in search of the omnipotent light she misplaced many moons ago.  The only person who can crack the case is the agent originally involved in Serleena’s foiled plot, Special Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones).  The glitch?  Kay is working as a government drone in the Truro, Massachusetts post office, his brain long-ago neuralized to banish all traces of standoffs with colossal alien creepy-crawlers.

Bringing Kay up to speed isn’t easy.  Jay has to locate a de-neuralizer to jog his memory, then convince him that he’s the only living being left with the expertise to save the galaxy from Serleena’s fundamental plan of destruction.  Three-cent stamps, anyone?

The mark of a respectable summer blockbuster is one of two things: unadulterated thrills or genuine laughs.  I laughed long and hard at MIB2, particularly at Frank the Pug, who virtually steals the show with his irreverent one-liners.  On the physical front, Stan Winston has trotted out a remarkable display of tricked-up space invaders, each one more eerily imaginative than the last.  Danny’s Elfman’s mood music is the perfect side dish for this gourmet display of special effects and action vignettes.

Sparks still fly between Smith and Jones; a classic pairing of smooth-talker and no-nonsense tough-guy.  Boyle is surprisingly effective as the sinister seductress with slimy reptilian powers (orifice irrigation cleansing a specialty), and the primary supporting cast of Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub, and Rosario Dawson (as Jay’s unexpected love interest) is dramatic enough.  Even pacing fits the economical 88-minute run time, but an alien overdose means a mild creature hangover the next day.  I never thought I’d say it, but keep the summer hits coming.