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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, like its two predecessors, Men in Black III is part buddy comedy and part alien action/adventure, so there are tons of creeptastic creatures (though fewer than in the original movie), plus interspecies peril and a considerable body count. Several aliens and a few humans are killed in shoot-outs (many involving over-the-top sci-fi weapons), but no one that viewers really care about is killed. The language is occasionally salty ("s--t," "bulls--t," "ass"), but aside from one fairly graphic tongue kiss between an alien and a sexily dressed woman, there's nothing too risque. In the end, good triumphs over evil, and humans prove they're a race worth saving.
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What's the story?
In MEN IN BLACK III, Agent J (Will Smith) is now a 14-year veteran of the covert government operation but still can't figure out why K (Tommy Lee Jones) is so closed off about his private life. Then Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) -- an alien that K maimed and arrested in 1969 -- escapes from his lunar prison cell and steals a time-travel device to go back in time and kill the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) in order to successfully enact his plan to destroy Earth, like Boris' race of murderous aliens did to two other planets. After Boris erases K from the present timeline, J must also race to the past to stop the assassination from occurring, or everyone on Earth will die.
Is it any good?
This isn't exactly a show-stopping masterpiece of alien-buddy-comedy-adventures. With few exceptions (the Bourne series, Mission: Impossible), action franchises aren't known for third films that are as critically and popularly regarded as the originals. So it's no surprise -- especially considering that it's been a decade since Men in Black II came out -- that MIB III doesn't hold up all that well. But with that caveat in mind, J and K's return is entertaining enough, even though there aren't nearly as many laughs (or aliens) as in the first film.
What works best in this installment is the addition of Brolin as a young K. He nails Jones' gravelly, laconic style without being nearly as grumpy. He is, after all, four decades younger and less hardened. Brolin and Smith still have the signature odd-couple rapport, but without as much as scowling. And moving the action to 1969 allows for some '60s humor, like the idea that Andy Warhol (SNL regular Bill Hader) is actually a secret agent or that cops would naturally mistake any black man driving a fancy convertible for an athlete, entertainer, or thief. Clement is also particularly funny in the scenes when menacing Boris' past and future selves meet and argue (he should be cast in more movies). Overall, MIB III is a moderately amusing release, but the summer of 2012 belongs to The Avengers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the enduring popularity of the Men in Black series. How are the aliens in these films different than ones portrayed in other sci-fi movies?
Do you think popular movies need to keep adding sequels? How do you think the third film compares to the other two? Should the Men in Black franchise end here?
Why are odd-couple buddy films so fun to watch? What are some of the best buddy action adventures?
Talk about the movie's violence. How did it make you feel? How much of it consists of special effects? Does the impact of movie violence change based on how realistic it is?
- In theaters: May 25, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: November 27, 2012
- Cast: Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith
- Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Space and Aliens
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content
- Last updated: September 3, 2020
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