Neuralyze me

Men in Black II is a disappointing sequel that appears to have been rushed through post-production.

“I can’t take it, Will. This movie turned out so badly that I want to shoot myself in the neck.”

“I can’t take it, Will. This movie turned out so badly that I want to shoot myself in the neck.”

Rated 2.0

Five years after its predecessor, Men In Black II makes it to your local hellaplex, and rather than being one of those rare sequels that equals or bests the original, this film winds up being a regrettable stinker.

Regrettable in that it starts so promisingly. Will Smith is in great form as Agent Jay, now the big cheese at MIB, the secret agency designed to regulate alien life here on Earth. The first chunk of the movie shows Jay struggling with his latest partner (the underutilized Patrick Warburton), and their two scenes together are priceless.

Things seem to really get rolling with the reintroduction of Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) into the mix. Kay, who had his memory erased at the end of the first film and now works in a post office, needs to have his memory restored because his brain contains the key to saving the universe from an evil plant alien that has taken the shape of a Victoria’s Secret model (Lara Flynn Boyle, looking pretty pasty).

Up until the point where Jay and Kay re-team, the sequel is fun and maintains the original’s cool vibe. Director Barry Sonnenfeld has returned with Jones and Smith, as well as Rip Torn as MIB’s head agent and Tony Shalhoub as an alien who tends to get his head shot off.

What becomes evident as the film progresses is that MIB II might’ve been a rush job, shot and pushed through post-production in a careless way so as to meet the franchise’s familiar July 4 weekend release date. Rick Baker’s makeup and creature creations, usually so marvelous, look like throwaway ideas from your average Battlestar Gallactica episode.

Here is yet another movie that, with the advent of new computer technology, features CGI effects that look sketchy, unfulfilled and sloppy. There’s a moment where Jones gets wrapped up in alien plant vines that look like a kindergartener’s finger-painted rendition of a mad beanstalk. The effects are, in a word, bad. Also awful is the film’s finale, re-conceptualized to remove the Twin Towers after 9-11 and apparently the product of multiple re-shoots. It feels tacked on.

This is all quite surprising, considering the level of expectation MIB II generates. Then again, a great film is certainly not a requirement for big money returns, and the studio behind this one surely knew it. I can just picture editors, effects supervisors and the director begging for more time on this one and basically getting told, “Finish it, or else!” They may have met their deadline, but the product is a bust.

Watching this film, I was reminded of Ghostbusters 2, a film that had all of its main stars return but ended up stinking to high heaven, a shameful product released on the public to act as the studio’s summer tent pole. For that matter, MIB II also reminds me of Superman IV, a strange sequel that had all the original stars and some of the worst special effects ever put to screen in a high-profile motion picture.

Not faring well at all is Boyle as an alien whose motives don’t really make much sense (something about a search for “the light,” a force that will conquer the universe and whatnot). Boyle is given the ugly task of taking a large alien dump in the film’s opening sequence after she has consumed a human being. Let it now be known that your movie career is hurting when you are walking around Central Park in black lingerie taking large alien dumps.

If they should make another Men In Black, I hope they allow for an extra year of post-production and effects work, because the talent involved should never have been responsible for something that looks this lousy.