Men In Black

1997, Movie, PG-13, 98 mins


GHOSTBUSTERS meets The X-Files. This sci-fi action comedy -- directed with all the considerable panache Barry Sonnenfeld can muster, and very clever in a deeply shallow sort of way -- posits that all those paranoid UFO nuts babbling about the government sending mysterious "Men in Black" to cover up evidence of alien visitations are absolutely right. Since the late 1950s, displaced Bug-Eyed Monsters have been assuming human form and quietly settling into new lives, mostly alongside the rest of the huddled masses yearning to breathe free in New York City. "It's like CASABLANCA," says MIB Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), the old alien hand, "but without the Nazis." The shadowy Men in Black license and monitor the intergalactic out-of-towners, and take care of the bad apples from outer space who try to spoil it for everyone. Following his longtime partner's retirement, K teams up with hotshot new kid Agent J (Will Smith) to stop an alien assassin (Vincent D'Onofrio) who's hell-bent on starting an interstellar war that will spell bad times for this island Earth. Extravagant special effects notwithstanding, this is really a triumph of casting: The aplomb with which Jones plays wry straight man to Smith's street-smart wiseacre is terrifically enjoyable. Ed Solomon's script (based on the Men in Black comic-book series) offers deadpan riffs on everything from the 1964 New York World's Fair, supermarket tabloids and Dennis Rodman to Velcro and microwaves (products of alien technology, don't you know), and Smith and Jones wring every last drop of smarty-pants drollery out of them. Cool hot-weather fun -- this will be the one to beat right through the dog days of summer. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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