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MEN IN BLACK II
U.S. Release Date: July 3, 2002
Distributor: Sony / Columbia
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Producer: Steven Spielberg (executive)
Composer: Danny Elfman
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Rip Torn, Lara Flynn Boyle, Johnny Knoxville, Rosario Dawson, Tony Shalhoub, Patrick Warburton
Running Time: 1 hour and 28 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (sci-fi action violence and some provocative humor)

Can Somebody Please Flashy-Thing Me?
by Billy Reeves

Where's a Neuralizer when you need one? Can somebody please "flashy-thing" me?

That's all I could think about as soon as the credits began to roll on Barry Sonnenfeld's new high profile sequel Men in Black II. I'd like not to remember seeing it, so that the genius of its predecessor would remain unscathed in my mind's eye. But what can you possibly expect from a shorter, sillier and generally less inventive continuation of the original? Not much. But many of you will, so listen up.

The film opens with a look at an old MIB case. It turns out that in 1978, an alien species called the Zarthans landed on Earth and pleaded with the MIB to conceal their most sacred treasure, aptly named "The Light of Zartha." An evil alien named Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) had been seeking out "The Light" in hopes that she could turn it against the Zarthans and destroy them. The MIB, following strict procedure, refused to safeguard the treasure and blasted it back into space, sending an angry Serleena after it. She vowed to destroy any planet that attempted to conceal it from her…

We're then thrust back into the present day. Serleena has returned to Earth after receiving a lead that "The Light" is still there, and she has wasted 24 years searching for it. Oh, and by the way, "The Light" is set to self-destruct at midnight on July 4th, and will destroy the entire planet if not safely blasted back into space.

Meanwhile, Agent J (Will Smith) is busy patrolling the streets of New York protecting us from all those big, bad aliens. Agent J is now "Big Man on Campus" at MIB. He's smarter, more capable, and unfortunately LESS funny. His new partner Frank—the pug dog alien that Tommy Lee Jones shook up in the first movie—easily upstages him. Frank doesn't disappoint when it comes to his silly canine antics. Oh yes, you'll laugh.

Serleena doesn't waste any time in pursuit of her treasure, murdering a Zarthan in disguise while interrogating him. Luckily for the MIB (and the very contrived romantic subplot), a witness to this gruesome attack (Rosario Dawson) remains unharmed so that she can give a detailed account of the events to Agent J. J instantly falls head over heels for her and decides not to neuralize away her memories of him or the aliens, going against the MIB's strict regulations.

The clock is ticking and Zed (Rip Torn) reunites J with his former partner K (Tommy Lee Jones), who five years earlier had his memory wiped clean and has since been happily working as the Postmaster of a small town. Locked deep inside his mind is the location of "The Light," and after the "de-neuralizer" has restored his memory he and J struggle to find the precious Zarthan treasure before the ruthless Serleena does.

Despite the diabolically sexy performance of Boyle and the heartwarming "damsel in distress" routine by Dawson, the sequel plays it safe too often, and you won't get anything new out of Jones and Smith. Same guns, same aliens and the same dumb gags. If I wanted to see Jack Jeebs (Tony Shalhoub) get his head blown off so it can re-grow, I'll just watch the original Men in Black on DVD. The funniest thing in the whole movie is a cameo by none other than Michael Jackson! So if you liked the first movie enough to sit through it again at the theaters, be my guest. That's essentially what you'll get here.

The target audience of this film will no doubt enjoy it, but the film just left me wanting more.


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