Nearly a decade after they last saved the earth from aliens, the Men in Black are back -- and critics seem pretty okay with that.
The science fiction sequel earned a 66 percent "fresh" rating, according to the the critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. That's a far higher number than those received by recent box office duds "Dark Shadows" and "Battleship." At the very least, most reviewers preferred "Men in Black 3" to the critically reviled second film in the series.
Not that everyone was happy to see the UFO chasers return to the big screen. TheWrap's Alonso Duralde praised the time-travel plot that sees Will Smith's Agent J transported back to the 1960s to save Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K from an alien with a grudge. But he accused the two actors of going through the paces strictly to collect a fat paycheck.
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"Smith tries to recapture his wisecrackery of yore, but it’s apparent that he’d rather be brooding his way through another 'I Am Legend' or 'Seven Pounds' instead," Duralde writes. "Jones, meanwhile, feels so distanced and distracted that it’s as though he’d filmed his entire performance in front of a green screen at a remote location."
In the New York Times, A.O. Scott said that the two stars' chemistry was "creaky," but enjoyed the film and Josh Brolin as a younger version of Jones' character.
"'Men in Black 3' arrives in the multiplexes of the world with no particular agenda," Scott writes. "Which may be part of the reason it turns out to be so much fun."
Brolin's uncanny impersonation of Jones drew the lion's share of the critical raves, with many reviewers crediting the actor with breathing new life into the franchise.
Rolling Stone pundit Peter Travers gushed, "Brolin's take on Jones' deadpan delivery (they co-starred in "No Country for Old Men") is spot-on and spectacularly funny. Better yet, Brolin brings in a true actor's grace, adding humor and heart that help explain the origins of Agent K's moody blues."
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Also enjoying himself was the Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert, who said the third installment was better than the first "Men in Black."
"Let me say that although I liked the first 'MiB' movie, I wasn't particularly looking forward to this belated sequel," Ebert writes. "But I had fun. It has an ingenious plot, bizarre monsters, audacious cliff-hanging, and you know what? A closing scene that adds a new and sort of touching dimension to the characters of J and K."
Perhaps the harshest critique was from Mary Pols, in Time magazine.
"It’s silly to feel sorry for a big studio movie, especially a second sequel bound to make buckets of money, but director Barry Sonnenfeld’s 'Men in Black 3,' arriving 15 years after his original and 10 after 'Men in Black 2,' is so creaky and out of touch it inspires pity," Pols wrote.
If hordes of moviegoers disagree, Pols may find herself reviewing "Men in Black 4" before too long.