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Laramie Movie Scope:
Men in Black

A funny cop buddy film about inhuman illegal aliens

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 3, 1997 -- "Men in Black," timed perfectly for the 50th anniversary of the Roswell fiasco, is a funny cop buddy film about what it would be like if the supermarket tabloids were right, and there were lots of aliens living among us.

Starring Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K and Wil Smith as James Edwards (later Agent J after he becomes a member of MIB), the story is about Edward's recruitment into MIB and the two agents' mission to save the earth from destruction by an alien race.

This is the sort of film that wouldn't have been nearly as effective a few years ago before computer animation made the creation of believable aliens technically feasible. Aliens in movies used to look like guys with bad makeup dressed up in rubber suits. Now they really look alien.

The premise of Men in Black is based on the popular urban myth that there really are men in black who get rid of evidence of extraterrestrials for the government. Along with "black helicopters" and the secret government, the men in black are among the stock beliefs of the lunatic fringe.

Edwards gets recruited from the New York Police Department into the Men in Black forces by Agent K after he tracks down a very difficult to catch alien criminal. The process of J's initiation into the MIB is very clever. He learns there are about 1,500 disguised aliens living among humans on earth, most of them in the New York City area, which explains a lot about that town.

It is the job of MIB to make sure the aliens live by the rules. He learns, for instance, that stories in supermarket tabloids provide MIB valuable leads on wayward aliens. He learns that Newt Gingrich, among other famous people, is an alien. He also learns how MIB manage to erase the memories of those who saw the aliens. One of the funniest scenes in the movie is the test Edwards has to take to become a man in black.

Tommy Lee Jones plays the straight man in this film, but his comic timing is very good. Wil Smith, of course, has plenty of experience and talent in comedy and he puts it to good use. The interaction of these two characters is what makes this film work. Rip Torn plays Zed, the slightly unhinged head of MIB. Linda Fiorentino ("The Last Seduction") is also in the film, but her part as the coroner is small and doesn't come anywhere near utilizing her great acting talent. Vincent D'Onofrio is very funny as Edgar, a farmer whose body is taken over by a giant bug with a superiority complex.

Along the way, there are chase scenes, shoot-outs with ray guns, gross-out scenes with squashed alien bugs and a cat with the galaxy hung around its neck. It is an enjoyable ride. There are plenty of funny jokes, sight gags and good special effects. This movie is a lot of fun, except that it has a little too much slime. 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 © 1997 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)