The sci-fi/cop/comedy franchise known as Men in Black has always traveled a wavy road. The original which came out in 1997 and starred Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith got huge accolades despite that it included a lot of gross or disturbing physical gags. When the second chapter arrived in 2002, the gross humor got worse and so did the reviews. However, the franchise was able to redeem itself (mostly) for Men in Black 3 ten years later. Fast forward seven more years and we have a new story with new characters and locales. The fact that this one does not star either Jones or Smith, not even in a cameo, is enough to make some fans jeer, but for me, the new combo of featuring Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson is a welcomed change.
If you haven’t seen the first three movies, don’t bother rushing out to rent them to get caught up. It won’t be needed. MIB: International does a great job catching new people up without weighing down old fans with an origin story. Well, in a way it does.
This MIB assumes that you already know that aliens from other planets are interacting with much of our world but in secret and the MIB team sworn to protect us from the ones that get out of hand. While the story begins with excitement at the Eiffel Tower with Agent H (Hemsworth) and Agent High T (Liam Neeson) battling some … thing known as The Hive, the story abruptly goes back a number of years when super-science kid, six-year-old Molly and her parents have a run in with a creature that was…not from around here. Before Molly’s parents can call the police, two Men in Black appear at the doorstep and flashing them with the iconic memory-wiping Neuralyzer, only Molly avoids it creating a life-long career learning adventure for a career that isn’t supposed to exist.
Eventually, a grown up Molly (Thompson) works her way into having an interview with the head of MIB, Agent O (Emma Thompson) and after Molly more-or-less impresses her, she is sent to work with Agent H under the leadership of Agent T. Got that? The two can’t stop bragging about how they defeated The Hive with only their wits and their Neuralyzers.
The new Agent M is green, but it is refreshing that Art Marcum and Matt Holloway’s script didn’t the working pair in the stereotypical manner where the man thinks it’s beneath him to work with a woman and the woman feels that she needs to show the man up in order to earn respect. Well, there is a little jostling here and there between the two, but for the most part, they hit it off pretty quickly.
The pair is tasked with meeting with a creature character known as Vungus and is considered alien royalty and keep him safe. They soon learn that not only do others want to harm Vungus, but they also want a secret item he’s hiding. As you can imagine, things go sideways and the two are literally sent around the world including London, Morocco and Italy. Along the way, they meet little alien, Pawny (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) who becomes the two little sidekick. I wasn’t going to like this character, but Nanjiani is so funny, that Pawny won over my heart pretty quickly. They also run into Agent H’s former volatile love interest, Riza (Rebecca Ferguson), two shapeshifting assassin creatures played by real-life twin brothers Laurent and Larry Bourgeois (who won the first season of NBC’s World of Dance of all things!) and a bunch of other creatures including a few from the previous films.
While not as “edgy” as the previous films, MIB: International is a fun romp with a likable cast and plenty of laughs. If you’re looking for a complicated storyline (or even one who haven’t heard before) you won’t find it here, but it doesn’t really matter. And despite the PG-13 rating, the swearing and violence it kept to a minimum. While I wouldn’t go as far as calling the film a family movie, I do say that it is a lot more family-friendly than a lot other movies.
Some critics have argued that the two leads lack a certain chemistry, but while the two do care for each other, I think it really means that the two, above all else, respect each other, which again, is refreshing to see in this post “Me Too” movement.
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.