Men in Black

Men in Black posterNYPD officer James Edwards was just doing his job, chasing down a criminal through the streets of New York when something strange happened — the perp blinked two sets of eyelids.  The rest of the police department doesn’t believe James, but somebody does — a mysterious man in in a black.

The man in black is known only as Agent K, and after some convincing, he recruits James to be part of the Men in Black — a secret agency that monitors, screens, and covers up alien activity on the planet earth.  James becomes Agent J, dons his own black suit, and partners with K to find out what threat is sending scores of formerly happy aliens running back home.

The answer?  A bug, a violent, parasitic alien who feeds on other life forms, and wants to obtain the Galaxy to help his race win a war with the Arquillians.  As if that weren’t trouble enough, the Arquillians regretfully announce that to keep the bug from obtaining the Galaxy, they will destroy earth if the bug isn’t stopped before their deadline, which is just hours away.

Can K and J work together to stop the bug, deliver the Galaxy, and save the earth before the whole planet and every man, woman and extra-terrestrial on it are blasted into oblivion?

The Good

Honestly, the movie is more a fun ride than anything else.  It is absolutely hilarious from beginning to end, with fun characters, just enough of an arc to make the story feel worthwhile, and a bittersweet ending that tugs at your heartstrings.  There’s not much thematic substance to the story.

There are a few messages.  J learns to take the world just a little more seriously, and that everything is not a game.  The two agents learn to cope with each others’ vastly different viewpoints and are willing to lay down their lives for each other and for the people of earth.

Mostly, though, it’s just to make you laugh — lighten your spirit.  And it will.  It’s loads of fun.

The Bad

Unfortunately, it’s not as clean as I could wish.  The main problem is language, of which there is a whole lot throughout the film.  It’s on the mild side as bad words go, but there is an awful lot of it.

A morgue worker in an extremely short skirt, Laurel, is romantically attracted to Agent J, an attraction which he returns.  While nothing really ever happens between them, they flirt a few times and in one scene she tries to tell him that she’s being held hostage, and he thinks that she is propositioning him.

There are also a lot of scary/disturbing elements, especially the villain — the “bug.”  Disturbing enough in his natural giant cockroach state, he’s more bothersome still after killing a farmer and using the man’s empty skin as a disguise.   It’s not shown in gory detail, but the result is still pretty disgusting.  Aliens’ heads are shot off and grown back, one character is eaten alive by the bug, and two alien characters are murdered.  There’s a lot of that sort of violence — nothing really downright graphic, but some stuff that’s just plain gross.

The Art

The highlight of the film is definitely the acting.  Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith are a riot together, and they completely make the film worthwhile.  Minor characters are also well-acted, but the heart of the story is the two agents and their hilarious relationship.

The visual effects are decent, especially for the time the film was made.  Danny Elfman’s score is memorable and fitting, the plot, while complex, is well-paced and engaging.

If you don’t mind the swearing and the alien weirdness, this is a delightful film to laugh away a couple hours with.  If you have a problem with language in films, this is definitely one to skip.  Hopefully, this review will help you decide whether or not this classic is a movie you care about seeing.

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