The Reel Thing /Extra Terrestrials: Welcome Back, Men In Black

by Louie Grande

In "Men In Black II," the best special effect is not a monstrous sub-dwelling, subway-chasing, multi-fanged worm named Jeffrey. Itís not the two headed evil-lackey Scrad/Charlie played with weasely henchman smarminess by MTVís own Johnny Knoxville. Itís not the regenerating head of alien informant Jeebs (Tony Shalhoub) each and every time it gets vaporized. Its not even talking-pug turned sidekick, Frank (voiced by Tim Blaney), who manages the impossible - making the overexposed song ďWho Let the Dogís OutĒ funny.

No. Itís Lara Flynn Boyle - playing alien antagonist disguised as vampish Victoria Secret model, Serleena - and her - uh... How can I put this without incurring the wrath of my breathtakingly beautiful girlfriend and love of my life, as well as alienating my entire female reading population? Letís go with the term ďprosthetic enhancements...Ē

Letís put it this way - Iíve seen "The Practice."

How do you do that, Rick Baker?

Yes, the Men in Black are back, once again being put through their paces by director Barry Sonnenfeld ("Adamís Family," "Wild, Wild West"). Itís five years following the events of the first film and one-time rogue, smart-aleck Agent J (Will Smith - "Ali," "Bad Boys") has become a by-the-books mentor for a slew of MIB wannabes, each ultimately neuralized with the little, flashy thing and sent on their merry, clueless ways. Seems no partner passes muster with the newly serious Agent J, even when heís paired by head-MIB-honcho Zed (Rip Torn) with eager recruit, Frank, a spaceman in a speaking dogís body, to inspect an alien-related homicide.

Fate steps in when the investigation uncovers the plans of visiting extraterrestrial evil, Serleena, to repossess a powerful relic, the Light of Zartha. Supposedly hidden on earth some twenty-five years prior by a peaceful race of space-people, the light will not only give Serleena power-supreme back on her rock of ages, but will also destroy the world as we know it if not located by midnight.

Why ask questions? Like you understand the wars we fight here in the real world any better...

Catch is - the only individual with any hope of possibly relocating the light is Jís crotchety one-time partner, K (Tommy Lee Jones - "Space Cowboys," "The Fugitive"), who was, unfortunately, neuralized back in Part I, and has assumed the position of a United States Postal Worker.

So, of course, itís up to J to restore Kís memory of his past-life - via the aid of a deneuralizer - in time to save earth from certain doom.

ďGo put it on,Ē says J, after some slick convincing to even get his former friend and mentor into MIB HQ.

ďPut what on?Ē

ďThe last suit youíll ever wear... again...Ē

"Men in Black II," like the first, works largely due to the rapport between Jones and Smith who play the odd-couple, buddy-cop shtick to the hilt. The nice thing is - neither assumes the role of straight man or comic-relief; each is both at the same time, deadpanning their peacekeeping MIB heroics as they swagger toward their alien enemies, oversized, chrome ray guns in hand.

Critics have already complained that "MIB II" offers nothing new to audiences - itís rehashed, they say... itís formulaic - with old jokes and old effects, and a lack of new ideas. They say that whereas the first installment caught us off-guard and surprised us with an off-kilter blend of humor and dazzling sci-fi, the second is treading on familiar ground.

Allow me to suggest, once again (and I grow tired of repeating myself), that these individuals (and yíall know who you are) stay home - theyíre probably the same people that are chawing down on their popcorn like horses behind me, anyway...

Hereís my theory: If you liked "Men in Black," youíre going to see "Men in Black II" for just that reason: similar entertainment value with some slightly different supporting characters, some new effects, and that trademark lead character chemistry.

The slew of new creatures created by Baker are, as usual, intergalactic eye candy, and the film sports some nicely done cameos, the most hilarious by David Cross ("Mr. Show") as guy who operates a conspiracy-theory themed video store in his motherís house.

The jokes are spot-on and Will and Tommy are having fun getting jiggy wití it.

What more could you people want?

Gentlemen, may I direct your attention to Miss Lara Flynn Boyle...

"Men in Black II" is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action, mild language and brief sensuality.