Men in Black
Men in Black
by Eric D. Snider
Released: July 2, 1997
[Some of these early reviews were written for my college newspaper with Kimber Kay, in the format seen here.]
KIMBER: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones fill familiar roles as wise-cracking heroes in the sci-fi comedy "Men in Black." This appears to be the runaway comedy hit of the summer.
ERIC: "Men in Black" is the souffle hit of the summer: light and airy, and the next day you've pretty much forgotten that you even saw it. It's funny, but not funny enough, and exciting, but not exciting enough.
KIMBER: The label of sci-fi is only given because aliens have supporting roles. It is more of a cross between "The X-Files" and "Saturday Night Live" (when it is funny). The alien bug that takes possession of a human body is hilarious. This gives a lot of physical comedic relief. Normally aliens eating people is greeted in a theater with screams, but for "Men in Black," it was played for laughs.
ERIC: The problem with this movie is that it has no climax. Stuff happens, and then it just sort of ends. The plot isn't unclear or confusing; they just don't make it clear that THAT'S the plot we're supposed to be paying attention to. The filmmakers seem to hope that the mere idea of a government agency designed to keep visiting aliens in line would be interesting enough to keep our attention, and so they slack off on mentioning what the plot was.
It's almost as though they were carrying on the movie behind our backs. The conflict -- which has to do with an angry bunch of aliens who threaten to blow up the earth -- takes a back seat to all the gadgets and wise-cracks from the two stars, and so we don't realize until the end that we were SUPPOSED to be paying attention to the mad aliens. And all this time we thought that was a SUB-plot!
But let me answer Kimber's protests before she makes them: The movie is fun. It's hard not to like it, because Smith and Jones have so much charm and charisma. It's just not hilarious.
KIMBER: Whatever. Don't let Eric's cynicism deter you from standing in line to see this film. I understood that the mad aliens was the major conflict. I can't think of anything bigger than the possibility of blowing up the earth. The subplot was when a sexy New York coroner figures out some of the strange corpses showing up in the morgue are really aliens.
I felt there was a good balance between showing off the neat-o gadgets of the aliens and the computer animation and makeup of the aliens. It didn't dominate the film but added significantly to it. If you compare this to "The Lost World," where the dinosaurs are just eating machines, the aliens definitely have personality. Even if those personalities are annoying or short-tempered, it flavors the film.
ERIC: I should mention, since it seems to be my duty to be the voice of reason here, that there is more swearing in this movie than perhaps you might like to hear. The first two lines of dialogue contain two swear words, in fact, and there's plenty after that. It's not oppressive, dominating, every-other-word swearing, but it is there. Just so you know.
KIMBER: There is also a miniskirt that has a hard time staying in the right place, but this by far is more of a family flick than anything else this summer besides "Hercules." The Varsity Theater will hardly have to edit anything out of it. This film rocks. If you don't see "Men in Black," what will you see? "Speed 2: Cruise Control"?
ERIC: To my knowledge, there has never been a movie that was successful at being both a comedy and a sci-fi adventure. "The X-Files" occasionally finds the right blend of the two, but usually a film will be heavy on one and light on the other. "Men in Black" is as funny as it is exciting, but there are other movies this summer that are funnier, and still others that are more exciting. This one is sort of in between somewhere.
Rated PG-13, language and sci-fi violence
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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