Opinion Brief

Men in Black 3: Surprisingly touching?

Will Smith wisecracks, whimsical aliens, and special effects abound in the new film, but the most effective element, critics say, is its unexpected emotional punch

After reports of expensive reshoots and script rewrites, expectations were low for Men in Black 3, which reunites Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as alien-fighting agents for the first time in a decade. Think again, says A.O Scott at The New York Times. In the franchise's third outing, Agent J (Smith) travels back in time to 1969 to stop an evil alien from killing Agent K (Jones) — and finds the younger but no less deadpan K (Josh Brolin channeling Jones). The movie's true surprise, says Scott, is that it is "touching as well as hectic and whimsical." Agrees Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly: "The film isn't afraid of emotional truth." Is Men in Black 3 really that heartwarming?

The sentiment saves the film: Men in Black 3 is dragged down by predictably broad caricatures and the concept's waning novelty, says Nathan Rabin at The A.V. Club. But it's "redeemed by an unexpected emotional resonance befitting a Steven Spielberg production." This time around, Jones' sad eyes "betray a pervasive pain," which becomes even more affecting when contrasted with the "playfulness and warmth" Brolin brings to his younger version of the character. Bonus: Michael Stuhlbarg makes a strong impression a gentle and heartbreakingly charming new alien.
"Men in Black 3"

It's not that powerful: Yes, a "genuinely emotional revelation" — which won't be spoiled here — makes for a "satisfyingly grand finale," says Elizabeth Weitzman at New York's Daily News. But let's not oversell this popcorn flick. Though chuckle-worthy, the punchlines are fairly predictable. The 3D effects aren't nearly as rousing as they should be. And while Josh Brolin is a revelation as a younger Tommy Lee Jones, "not all of the casting is impeccable": Bombshell Alice Eve proves a bland choice for a young Emma Thompson. MIB 3 is a "solidly entertaining," even affecting movie, but "it can't quite claim to be out of this world."
"Movie review: Men in Black 3"

Either way, Brolin makes this worth seeing: The real reason — and perhaps the only one — to see this film is Josh Brolin's triumphant turn as young agent K, says Mary Pols at TIME. He nails Tommy Lee Jones' trademark drawl, hitting "all those querulous notes just right," and his posture and body language are both spot on. "His sideways glance is pure poetry of Tommy Lee-ness." While Jones looks "genuinely miserable to be there" during his few scenes, Brolin "looks like he's having the time of his life." He's the film's saving grace.
"Men in Black 3: Somebody get Tommy Lee Jones a gold watch already"

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