“Silly little planet. You could rule the place with the right set of mammary glands.” Serleena could be right. She’s certainly giving it a shot in Men in Black II, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. This sequel to the 1997 monster-hit continues to play upon American-born fears of the government withholding information about outer-space alien contact (how absurd?!) and the humor inherent in juxtaposing the familiar with the otherworldly.
Like Jeff, the tiny-flower, huge-worm-alien (who looks a lot like a Dune worm) who hangs out in subway tunnels; and Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle), the Victoria’s Secret-lingerie-clad medusa alien (who could be the sister of the gorgeous snakelike alien in The Hidden). But the romance — of unveiling the “aliens live among us” secret and the inner workings of the organization that regulates them (MIB) — is over.
That’s not necessarily bad. It happens in every relationship (sniffle). But this time, the more seriously crafted sequencing of the first film is lost in the second, leaving us with a single, high-pitched, action-effects-driven level.
Men In Black II is still incredibly entertaining. Will Smith is his usual charming self (I swear he sounds like Muhammad Ali in a couple spots). Tommy Lee Jones is always a hard-assed pleasure. And Serleena’s swamp of snakes swallowing the screen made my jaw drop a couple of times. This comes alongside genuinely funny alien shtick — like when the beautiful Serleena eats a man walking his dog and, realizing her meal has altered her comely figure a bit, relieves herself behind a bush to reclaim her diabolical physique.
But more so than in the first film, Robert Gordon’s screenplay is riddled with one-liners and temporary-culture humor, such as references to “3rd Rock From the Sun” and Martha Stewart-obsessed aliens. Any tidbits of storyline (they are minimal) work as an excuse to introduce more freaky (derivative) aliens-effects, turning the film into a feature-length chase decorated with slimy eye candy.
Overall, and as expected, Men in Black II is more of the same intergalactic “fun” at cartoon speed, with references here and there to a plot — nonetheless, it’s a good time.
Anita Schmaltz writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].