Men in Black: International

 

star



The fourth film in the MIB franchise aims for broad comedy, getting the tone entirely 

wrong.

 
Men in Black: International

Taking us for a ride: Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth

 

One fears for the future of the multiplex. The cathedrals of entertainment dotted across the country now seem only to serve replicas of past commercial success. Last week we had the twelfth instalment of the X-Men franchise, next week there’s Toy Story 4. And this week we have Men in Black: International – or MIB 4. To say that it is a pale imitation of the riotously cool, deadpan and witty first three films in the franchise is misleading – it is more of a mockery. Here, all subtlety is banished in the name of high jinks and excessive effects, while the comedy is as broad as the smirk on Chris Hemsworth’s face.

 

A spin-off of the cycle that began with Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black in 1997 (itself adapted from the comic book series), MIB 4 is a farce of cosmic proportions. Every wink and line is played to the gods, every movement accompanied by an orchestral surge. The protagonist is Molly Wright (Tessa Thompson), who briefly befriended a bug-eyed, Gremlin-like alien when she was a child, and now wants in on the MIB inner circle. Hired on a preliminary basis by Agent O (Emma Thompson), Molly is dispatched to London to help out the arrogant, reckless and inept Agent H (Hemsworth), who’s obviously lost his touch. He just has no idea what peril the world is in…

 

The film contains none of the laidback humour of the past films, let alone the ingenuity, charm or excitement. It relies almost entirely on the CGI and the dubious appeal of Hemsworth, who was so much funnier in Vacation (2015). Only Emma Thompson, so brilliant in last week’s Late Night, manages to capture the proper tone, making more of a glance than all the wisecracking extraterrestrials combined. And it just doesn’t make sense. When there’s a power outage in a building in Marrakesh, the janitor is called on to change the fuse. He does so, but not before complaining that the landlord has failed to pay the electricity bill. Huh?

 

What’s so sad about this massive misfire is the talent involved. The director F. Gary Gray last brought us the thrilling, intoxicating Fast & Furious 8 (2017), not to mention the award-laden Straight Outta Compton (2015). And to think that co-star Liam Neeson and executive producer Steven Spielberg previously collaborated on Schindler’s List.

 

At its worst, Men in Black: International is akin to being stuck in a pub with a drunk regaling one with a stream of bad jokes. At its best, it’s like a cheesy episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. directed by Gerald Thomas.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani (voice only), Rebecca Ferguson, Rafe Spall, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Laurent Bourgeois, Larry Bourgeois, Spencer Wilding.

 

Dir F. Gary Gray, Pro Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, Screenplay Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, Ph Stuart Dryburgh, Pro Des Charles Wood, Ed Christian Wagner, Music Danny Elfman and Chris Bacon, Costumes Penny Rose.

 

Columbia Pictures/Amblin Entertainment/Parkes + Macdonald/Image Nation/Tencent Pictures-Sony Pictures.

114 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 14 June 2019. Cert. 12A.