That secret organization that protects our Earth from the scum of this universe is back, complete with a plethora of new aliens, a flashier car and rehashed potshots at popular culture. After the release of the first MIB, I couldn't have been more excited about a return to this fabulously ingenious concept, that blended great sci-fi humor in a truly off beat way, with our preconceived notions about clandestine organizations such as the CIA. However, although it is similarly themed to the first film, Men in Black 2, or more conveniently 'MIIB' didn't nearly reach the high standards set by its original.
Its been 5 years since the original duo of Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) and Jay (Will Smith) split with the neuralizing of Kay so that he could return back to his normal life with no memory whatsoever of the life he had left behind. In present day Earth he works for the postal agency, and his strict workman like nature finds him aptly placed as the agencies head post master. However when a new hostile alien, Serleena, in the form of a 'Victoria's secret' magazine model (Lara Flynn Boyle) threatens havoc on Earth, apparently in search of a secret 'light' that was placed on our planet nearly 25 years ago, the location of which only Kay was aware of while he was serving the MIB, it prompts the return of Kay once more back into the echelons of his former organization.
Right from its opening credits, you could feel something was not right. In contrast to the first films amazingly giddy and original take on a flying bug crashing into a windscreen, this film focuses on the return of Serleena in a tiny spacecraft, after that 25 year absence, that doesn't gives us the feeling of awe that we felt the fist time round. Jay is introduced on a regular day at the job trying to prevent a giant worm from causing trouble in the New York subway. He's been paired up with a partner for the past 5 month but doesn't quite feel the need for one. And after he's gotten rid of him, via a quick douse of the neuralizing beam, he's paired up with Frank, the talking canine from the first film, who lightens every scene he's in. Jay now comes across as a man for whom the charm of working for such a secret organization has all but been lost in his 5 years on the job. Smith seems tired in his early scenes working either solo or with a partner. Perhaps the makers tried to make us empathize with a man who's traded a normal life for one where there is no semblence or normality, whatever their intentions though, it fails to make the necessary impact.
While investigating the re-emergence of Serleena, Smith deliberately fails to neuralize a key female witness, making way for a hint of romanticism in his parched life. This and the fact that the MIB now sport a trendy new Benz, proves to be a contradiction to the fact that they are to remain low key at all times. The first movie was never about the human element in their lives, but about everything else, which there is so much of. Policing aliens unbeknownst to all around except the agents should have allowed an interesting enough canvas for director Barry Sonnenfield to work with. Reducing the lives of the MIB to the human level is taking the easy way out. Also the first half is heavy on talk about the fact that we aren't alone, complete with gleefully looking up at the stars etc.
Not all is at a loss though. After Kay is re-recruited, a reversal of situation takes place whereby Smith has to show Jones around to jog his memory by making him relive familiar situations such as visitng Jeebs (Tony Shalhoub), the alien whose head grows back. Also providing great laughter are the antics of a new creature that sports 2 heads, one smaller than the other and carried in a backpack. Cameos from Michael Jackson as another MIB agent as well as a bizarre sequence involving species that chant and live inside lockers provide some fresh air to the stale proceedings. Its not giving away much by revealing that most of the action takes place within the under siege MIB headquarters, and the final wrap up seems unclimatic, resembling the similarly sloppy resolution of the third act from the first film. After having just viewed a brilliant sequel to another comic book turned film earlier this year in Blade 2, this serves as a slight dissappointment to an otherwise potentially interesting franchise. - Faizan Rashid