Barry Sonnenfeld. Release Date: September 6, 2002. DVD Release Date: November 26, 2002.
In the grand scheme of things, Will Smith has the best racket ever going on. He works a few months out of the year, releases one picture a year, and makes millions of dollars for his effort. Seriously, when you were a kid and thought Fresh Prince of Bel Air had redeeming qualities, or when you were 10 and heard Parents Just Don't Understand for the first time, did you think he was going to make it big? I sure didn't, even though I've enjoyed a good chunk of his work to date. Even now, when I think about it, sarcasm kicks in with the response, "oh sure, and DJ Jazzy Jeff will be president." Then I think about the behavior of American voters over the last two decades and I strongly consider prayer. But here's the thing, while I appreciate the economic theory behind Mr. Smith's decision to minimize exposure in a bid to avoid "leboeufing" himself, I think that if your an actor with a reasonable amount of talent and generally the ability to pick your scripts, you could have done a better job than this.
I get that funny sci-fi is one of film's rarest unicorns. Only funny spoofs seem to be more difficult to pull off. And, to be fair, there are elements of funny in the movie that all gravitate around Will Smith. He was given a pretty big job, and I don't blame him for not really being up to the challenge. I blame him for taking this on in the first place.
MIB was a fun movie, but not a great movie. MIB II was suspiciously like a 90 minute Burger King add. The 4Ps of marketing aside, it really, really burns my ass when movies not only spend time advertising for companies, but aren't even subtle about it. I get that occasionally in movies there will be the need for product placement. It's annoying when it looks like that lengthy scene from Wayne's World. Having people eating Burger King once would be okay, or having them MEET in a Burger King is also okay. Placing a Burger King in MIB HQ is ridiculous, even by the standards of the film in question.
I liked Lara Flynn Boyle, who seems to mostly play these relatively fragile creatures, in this role of supervillain and all around badass. She was quirky, only a little campy, and a lot seductive. I liked Rosario Dawson as the flip side to that coin. Ms. Dawson usually plays relatively tough ladies on screen, and it was nice seeing her play something that was a bit more delicate, and in some ways a personality that was braver than her usual role because she wasn't tough.
I thought the alien features and running jokes about celebrities being aliens matched the standard set by the original. I thought the special effects were also on par, but I found the story and the conflict between the Krylothians and Xarthosians, or whatever the aliens were, to be mildly uninteresting. I was also bored by the concept that what we were looking for during the course of the film wasn't really what we thought it would be, which was a precedent set by the original. Then, the "universe" was a bauble on a cat's collar and now we were looking for a "light" which was not exactly a flashlight.
Kids probably love this stuff. They're probably the only reason to watch this movie.