It takes considerable effort to render a pair as charismatic as Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson boring, but the makers of “Men in Black: International” are up to the task. This completely forgettable “next generation” sequel brings in new MIB agents but recycles everything else, with a generic plot and the inconsequential feel of a pilot episode for a TV show that everyone knows isn’t going to get picked up anyway.
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are long gone, and the only holdover from “Men in Black III” — a movie that exists despite there being no evidence of it — is Emma Thompson as the boss, Agent O. She sends Agent M (Tessa Thompson, no relation), an eager new recruit who had an alien encounter as a child but never had her memory erased, to the London office of Earth’s extra-terrestrial immigration agency to see if there might be a mole in the operation. There she is partnered with the resident rakish hotshot, Agent H (Hemsworth), on an alien-babysitting assignment that goes awry and ends with a powerful secret weapon MacGuffin in M’s possession. The London boss, Agent T (Liam Neeson), is always covering for Agent H, who’s gotten sloppy and has been coasting on his great reputation for a few years, while Agent C (Rafe Spall) seems intent on bringing Agent H down. Whom can M trust? WHOM??
Directed without personality by F. Gary Gray (“Be Cool,” “Straight Outta Compton”), the film dutifully trots the globe in the service of its too-busy plot (courtesy of “Transformers: The Last Knight” writers Matt Holloway and Art Marcum), which also includes: a race of gopher-sized chess-piece aliens of whom only a pawn (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) has survived; a three-armed intergalactic arms dealer (Rebecca Ferguson) who used to be H’s girlfriend; a pair of breakdancing alien twins (Laurent and Larry Bourgeois) intent on finding the secret weapon; and, briefly, a female alien who saves H’s life on the condition that he sleep with her (which he does — for fun, imagine how the conversation around that would play out if it were a male alien extorting a female MIB agent for sex).
Thompson and Hemsworth have chemistry together when the film slows down enough for them to use it, which is infrequent. Everyone else in the movie is obsessed with how good-looking Hemsworth is, but thank goodness, Agent M doesn’t care: There’s no will-they-or-won’t-they? to their relationship, just professional respect and collegial banter. The movie is only intermittently funny and not particularly good, but to the extent that it’s not particularly bad, either, it’s because of the cast’s energy and commitment. I only wish I could think of an appropriate reference or metaphor to describe a movie that you forget all about as soon as it’s over.
C (1 hr., 54 min.; )