"Form Without Substance"
Hollywood, please remember, that high concept movies need stories. MEN IN BLACK II looks great in the commercials, but it plays like a gargantuan, irreverent dud. The buzz coming out of the screening of critics was “What happened?” The pop question is, “Why is this only an 88 minute movie?” The answer is that it doesn’t matter how long a movie is or how short, if it doesn’t have a story to tell.
The opening is very clever. It shows Peter Graves from an old television show entitled MYSTERIES FROM SPACE showing a hokey science fiction story about this princess landing on earth to get the help of a super secret society called Men in Black to protect a device, the Light of Zartha, that could blow up the universe. As she is handing the device to the Men in Black, another alien lands who’s a pile of veggie snakes named Serleena, an evil Kylothian creature who wants to destroy the Princess and her people.
Now, years later, Serleena is racing through the galaxy destroying planets looking for the light of Zartha. Jay, played with verve by Will Smith, happens upon Serleena’s evil plot to destroy the world. The only one who could possibly help him save the world is Agent Kay, played by Tommy Lee Jones, whose memory was erased at the end of the first MEN IN BLACK movie. Jay goes to the lowly post office where Kay works, surrounded by aliens disguised as human beings. Jay tries to convince Kay that he’s an agent from Men in Black.
By the time they get back to New York, Serleena has already taken over the Men in Black headquarters and has done nasty things to all sorts of people, including Zed played by Rip Torn. The rest of the movie involves Kay being re-neuralized, finding the Light of Zartha, saving the planet, and sending the Princess back home.
MEN IN BLACK II is crowded with sight gags, some highly sexual, such as the Ballchinian who clearly has, and we hate to say this, male testicles hanging from his chin, and the worms who dance with the love interest in clearly phallic ways. A few less sight gags may have worked. As it is, the constant violence and sight gags just produces an overload.
The real problem with the movie is that the producers did not think through the story. Instead of character development, there’s jumping conflict. Kay goes from being de-neuralized to being a super agent in the blink of an eye. Once he gets his memory back, the audience knows that he’s won, so the movie is one long resolution with no sense of jeopardy. All of the plot problems could have been easily fixed in the scriptwriting and the fixes are so clear that the movie could be used as an example of bad scriptwriting, in the tradition of MISSION TO MARS, ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE and A.I. This is disappointing because everybody was looking forward to the movie. When filmmakers find themselves with these problems, they often make the mistake made here of throwing in more sex and violence to try to fill the plot holes.
The worldview here is clearly eclectic. There is a “God bless you,” a reference to the occult practice of astrology, and a reference to multiverses, all treated with irreverence. In addition to this, there are more than 25 obscenities and profanities.
These filmmakers have done some great movies, SCHINDLER’S LIST, AMISTAD, but their clunkers have often fallen into this really bad clunker category, such as WILD WILD WEST and THE CREW with Richard Dreyfuss, and their clunkers have the same problems this movie has. The problem is, this movie needed a better writer.
Don’t be confused by the initial popularity of MEN IN BLACK II. Like PLANET OF THE APES, people will come away disappointed. There are some good movies out there this summer. For those who want family stuff, there’s STUART LITTLE 2 and LILO & STITCH, and for those who want movies for older audiences, there’s MINORITY REPORT, and many more in both categories.
(PaPa, B, O, H, Ho, LLL, VV, SS, NN, A, DD, M) Moderately strong, eclectic pagan worldview with some moral elements, a reference to occult astrology, references to the humanist theory of multiverses, and some homosexual elements; 27 obscenities, one profanity, and one God bless you; tons of action violence including villainess who is just a swarming mass of snakes posing as a Victoria Secret model and inserts her snake-like tendrils through peoples ears and nose and mouth, hero rides worm through subway while getting beaten and knocked, people getting chewed, aliens getting heads blown off several times, lots of fights, karate kicking to face, villainess stomps face, and man cut in half; kissing and villainess puts tongue in man’s ear which comes out the other side as a snake, woman plays Twister with worm creatures who look phallic, lots of sexual sight gags, some homosexual sight gags, including two-headed creature gives himself mouth to mouth resuscitation, some sexual talk, interspecies mating discussed; villainess adopts Victoria Secret form, skimpy outfits and female lingerie, and character kicks Ballchinian alien in obvious private parts hanging from his chin; alcohol use; smoking and drugs mentioned; and, characters ignore Moses creature.
Will Smith stars in MEN IN BLACK II as Agent Jay, who stumbles upon a conspiracy to destroy the world by Serleena, an evil alien who’s a pile of veggie snakes. The only one who can help him is Agent Kay, played by Tommy Lee Jones, whose memory was erased at the end of the first movie. Jay tries to convince Kay that he is a Men in Black agent. By the time they get back to New York, Serleena has already taken over the Men in Black headquarters. The rest of the movie involves Kay being re-neuralized and saving the planet.
MEN IN BLACK II is crowded with sight gags, some highly sexual. A few less sight gags may have worked. As it is, the constant violence and sight gags just produces an overload. The problem is, the filmmakers did not think through the story. They need a much better script. The worldview here is clearly eclectic. There is a "God bless you", a reference to the occult practice of astrology, and a reference to multiverses, all treated with irreverence. In addition to this, there are more than 25 obscenities and profanities.