Monday, September 2, 2019

Review: "Men in Black: International" is Poo Doo

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 9 (of 2019) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

Men in Black: International (2019)
Running time:  114 minutes (1 hour, 54 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sci-fi action, some language and suggestive material.
DIRECTOR:  F. Gary Gray
WRITERS:  Matt Holloway and Art Marcum (based on characters created by Lowell Cunningham)
PRODUCERS:  Laurie MacDonald and Walter F. Parkes
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stuart Dryburgh    
EDITORS:  Zene Baker, Christian Wagner, and Matt Willard
COMPOSERS:  Chris Bacon and Danny Elfman    


Starring:  Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson, Rafe Spall, Emma Thompson, Laurent Bourgeois, Larry Bourgeois, Kayvan Novak and Kumail Nanjiani (voice)

Men in Black: International is 2019 science fiction-fantasy and action-comedy from director F. Gary Gray.  This is the fourth film in the Men in Black (MiB) film series, and the first in a new MiB series that is part reboot and part sequel.  Men in Black: International finds the organization that has always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe searching for a spy working within MiB.

Men in Black: International introduces Molly Wright (Tessa Thompson), an overachiever who, as a child, had an experience with an alien.  This encounter led to Molly discovering the existence of “The Men in Black.”  Molly, after years of searching, has finally found the Men in Black's New York City base.  That earns her a meeting with “Agent O” (Emma Thompson), the head of MiB's U.S. branch, who is impressed by Molly's tenacity.

Molly becomes a probationary MiB agent and is sent to London where she answers to the head of MiB's United Kingdom branch, “High T” (Liam Neeson).  Soon, Molly finds herself partnering with “Agent H” (Chris Hemsworth) on an assignment to protect an alien VIP, the Jababian party animal, Vungus the Ugly (Kayvan Novak).  Vungus' death will spark a hunt for the most destructive weapon ever made and also for a traitor hiding within the ranks of MiB London.

While visiting the IMDb page for Men in Black: International, I discovered a member review of the film that declared, “This movie is politically correct (You've been warned!).”  I don't know what the person who posted this means by “this movie is politically correct.”  Among those for whom “PC” has become a battle cry are malcontents who think fictional characters in popular entertainment must fit their personal tastes and ideals in physical appearance, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, to name a few.  Coincidentally or ironically, the aforementioned review is as unimaginative and as clueless as the movie, Men in Black: International, is.

I don't often hold screenwriters solely responsible for a bad movie, but, by my estimation, screenwriters  Matt Holloway and Art Marcum, are largely responsible for the fact that Men in Black: International is an all-time franchise low in the Men in Black film series.  Everything about the writing is weak:  the flimsy, clumsily convoluted plot; the dull, insipid characters; and the pointless settings.

Chris Hemsworth's Agent H is amiable and forgettable; he is a charming (alien) womanizer, whose charm is about effective as a pretty knick-knack.  When he isn't onscreen, he isn't worth a second thought.  H is like a tepid version of Kevin Beckman, the character Hemsworth played in the 2016 Ghostbusters film.  Tessa Thompson's Molly/Agent M is no better, and M may actually be worse.  It is as if Thompson is not sure if she should play M as a cool and reserved female agent or as a curious and determined investigator of the weird.  The screenplay gives neither Hemsworth nor Thompson enough material from which to fashion a character that is more than a type.  They could not do much more with two characters that barely register above a whisper.

Liam Neeson's face is so frozen that I thought he was healing from a face lift, and his character, High T, is not the kind of magnetic character Neeson normally plays.  An actor who usually brings passion to his performances was like stiff, wet underwear frozen on the clothesline by cold weather.

Men in Black: International does have a few characters that are engaging.  Rafe Spall makes the best of his “Agent C,” an excellent rivalry type character (to H and M) who is largely wasted.  Every time Emma Thompson is onscreen in Men in Black: International, one can only think of the wasted opportunities – great actress, not great material.  Kumail Nanjiani provides some much needed laughs in his voice role as the diminutive alien (and CG creation), “Pawny.”

Men in Black: International's plot, about a threat to MiB, is full of misdirection, that cannot hide an sterile and uninspired plot.  The film manages to make the settings, from New York to London to Marrakesh (why?) to Paris, appear indistinguishable from one another.

I can never forget the unique feelings of joy I felt the first time I saw the original Men in Black (1997), which I have seen in its entirety at least three times.  That film retains its freshness, inventiveness, and its endearing weirdness after repeated views.  The sequels have struggled to capture the original film's sense of something amazing and new.

Men in Black: International may be the start of a new series of MiB films, but it feels too tired and too worn out to be an ignition.  It is clumsy and contrived in its action scenes, which is why I blame the screenwriters.  If director F. Gary Gray is really good at anything, it is in directing action movies and thrillers, and even he can't generate excitement from the hapless blueprint that is this film's script.  Men in Black: International is a bore and a chore to watch.  Yes, there is an occasional good moment here or there, but I was embarrassed that I had convinced two friends to see it with me.

And that title, Men in Black: International, is clunky, too.  Start over... again, Sony.

3.5 of 10

Official "Men in Black: International" trailer is on YouTube.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

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