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Laramie Movie Scope:
Men in Black II

More fun with Tommy Lee and Will

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 3, 2002 -- "Men in Black II" is more of the same from the same director and stars who made the original "Men in Black" released in 1997. I thought the sequel is pretty similar in quality to the original. Perhaps not as funny, but with better special effects and not quite as much slime.

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reprise their roles as agents Jay and Kay, men in black, members of a secret agency regulating the secret presence of aliens on earth. Their boss, Chief Z, is again played by Rip Torn and Tony Shalhoub of "Life or Something Like It") reprises his role as Jeebs, the alien pawnshop owner whose head is his least vulnerable spot. Frank the pug is back, this time as a wannabe agent. As in the original, the men in black have to save the world in the nick of time from another alien menace. New characters include a pretty girl, Rita (played by Rosario Dawson of "Josie and the Pussycats"), and a dangerous alien armed with a deadly push-up bra (played by Lara Flynn Boyle of "Happiness"). Another alien, who proves that two heads are not better than one is Scrad and Charlie, played by Johnny Knoxville of "Big Trouble." Patrick Warburton (of "The Tick" TV show") plays a very ineffective MiB agent called T.

There are some funny in-jokes in the film. Peter Graves appears in a TV segment showing a re-enactment of an alien encounter using cheap Ed Wood-like special effects. The comment is made that the show is like a Steven Spielberg film. Steven Spielberg just happens to be an executive producer of "Men in Black II." Another joke scene has Michael Jackson pleading to be allowed to be a MiB agent, even though he is an alien. The combination of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones works as well as ever, and some of the new characters, like Scrad and Charlie are funny. Some of the old aliens are back, like the worm guys, but there is a greater number and variety of aliens this time around. Serleena is the main villain and she is quite formidable with her endless supply of tentacles. The film is a very light romp. A perfect summer popcorn film.

Some critics seem to be complaining that "Men in Black II" is no good because it isn't better than the original film, or that it isn't as original as the original film. That doesn't make much sense to me. It's a sequel. The whole point of a sequel is try to recapture the audience of a successful film. You do that by giving the audience more of the same, sort of. It is like one movie industry observer once said regarding movie stars. The audience wants the same thing, only different. Harrison Ford is always going to act like Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis is always going to act like Bruce Willis. That is why the star system works -- the familiarity of it. You don't want to give them exactly the same. That would be boring. But the audience wants to see the same characters doing something new. It can't be too different though, or you lose your audience base. It is a bit of a delicate balance. Maybe that's why so few sequels really succeed. Most fall far short of the original. This is one is pretty close to the mark. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2002 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)