I hated Men in Black III (let’s refer to it as MIB3 from here on out).
But I didn’t hate it for the conventional reasons that people hate sequels. Instead, MIB3 rips open the still-festering wounds brought about by the 1969 Cubs and dumps in a pound of sea salt.
In the film, which everyone but Cubs fans will thoroughly enjoy, Agent J (an affable Will Smith) travels back in time to 1969 to save the future life of his work buddy, Agent K (a deadpanning Tommy Lee Jones). J must hunt down and assassinate an intergalactic baddie whose escape from a moon-based jail threatens the modern-day Earth, as well as the life of Agent K.
It sounds confusing, but I think time travel has been a difficult concept to embrace ever since the days of Jules Verne. Even the simplistic Back to the Future had some confusion-inducing moments. What in the world is a Flux Capacitor?
I was really enjoying this film until about halfway through, when a character wearing a Mets hat at a diner in 1969 New York casually says, “We’re never going to catch the Cubs ...”
Cue the sappy music. You lost me right there, director Barry Sonnenfeld. Even casual Cubs fans know that the Mets bounced back from last place in July that year to trounce the first-place Cubs, capped off with a two-game series in September at the mausoleum known as Shea Stadium, which Agents J and K visit here in a nightmare scenario for Cubs fans.
And it gets worse. We’re treated to a brief-yet-glowing cinematic bio of Cub killer Cleon Jones, the Mets’ left fielder who caught the final out of the 1969 World Series, which the Cubs rightfully should have been playing in had elderly manager Leo Durocher made any decent decisions that season.
Jones’ brief bio here grows even more troubling for me, who grew up worshipping at the altar of 1969 Cubs Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Fergie Jenkins: We learn that Cleon Jones would have been named Clara had he been born a girl. Klara (with a K, baseball shorthand for strikeout) is the name of my daughter. Sonnenfeld has made this antipathy very personal.
Do I sound bitter? Well, the 1969 season went down before I was born and I’m still mad about it. How’s that for time-travel confusion?
The statement that the movie continually poses, meanwhile? “Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answer to.” So if Durocher had substituted someone for catcher Randy Hundley that season, could we have gone all the way? I guess I don’t want the final answer to that question (or similar questions about 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003 and 2008 either).
The dialogue here is wonderfully concocted, and the interaction between Smith and Jones is priceless. The intergalactical creatures are humorous and beautifully rendered (well, as beautiful as a giant killer catfish thingy can be rendered), the plotline is practically tear-jerking and the movie is wholly enjoyable for people of all ages. No bad words, nothing gratuitous.
Rock snobs will note that the 1969 soundtrack here is rounded out with the Velvet Underground and the Rolling Stones. (An under-appreciated “2000 Light Years from Home.”)
I saw this one in 3D, which added a layer of fun I hadn’t appreciated in 3D movies before. The depth of cinematography is palpable, and opening credit words have nifty shadows.
“You are much more unconventionally handsome than your photos.” — woman visiting Boris the Animal in jail. (There’s your obligatory Who reference: Bassist John Entwistle’s greatest song was “Boris the Spider.”)
“Come on, I’ve got larva to feed.” — Alien restaurateur.
“You seem to have a lot of information for a guy who doesn’t know anything.” — Agent K to Agent J.
“A miracle is what seems impossible but actually happens.” — Alien Griffin.
“Last night was a long, long time ago.” — Agent J.
Other observations at the moviehouse
- A technology tale: For the first time, the doors at the Louis Joliet Mall were adorned with those new-fangled, netted advertisements this Sunday morning. I was taken aback and took note that a Will County Farmer’s Market was blossoming right after MIB3 got out. Having saved a smoked vegetables recipe I had planned on concocting that afternoon on my mobile device, I headed over there afterward and picked up some locally-grown peppers and zucchini, which were outstanding in the smoker. The market is held every Sunday in the parking lot between JCPenney’s and Macy’s. If the new adverts and my mobile device hadn’t worked in concert, I would have missed out and thought that the tents in the parking lot were peddling rugs. Pretty cool—21st-century technology meets the farmers.
- Do we really need another Spider-Man movie? Why can’t Hollywood invent a new superhero? What about Crawfishman?
- English majors unite: Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the upcoming The Great Gatsby. We’ve seen it before, in the ‘70s with Robert Redford, but this one looks promising.
- Skyfall, the new James Bond picture featuring the humorless Daniel Craig, looks positively dreadful.
- The game company Hasbro looks positively outdated in its ads for the clunky boardgame Battleship, released to supposedly capture the imagination that the big-picture release will unleash.
- Ad men still haven’t figured out how to make an inventive car ad. Snoooore...
- From my notes: Star Wars + Blade Runner = Total Recall.