A Few Great Men 

Josh Brolin gives a classic comic performance in Men in Black III

If you measure the return on your entertainment dollar by how many explosions are on the big screen, Men in Black III should settle the score nicely. But if you're looking for something more, say a good story and genius character development, then MIB III is also an investment well into the black.

Josh Brolin suits up and delivers one of the best comedic performances since Robert Downey Jr.'s outrageous blackface in 2008's Tropic Thunder. Brolin's note-perfect impression of Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K can't be missed. In fact, Brolin is so good that his K is more a tribute to Jones than impersonation.

I must admit to some begrudging reluctance to suffer through another incarnation of Men in Black. The number "3" just doesn't bode well for movies. Sequels can be good (Aliens) and, on occasion, great (Godfather II, The Empire Strikes Back) but three-quels are arthritic (Scream 3) and, on occasion, horrible (Godfather III, Jaws 3-D). For the record, Toy Story 3 gets a pass. It was pretty wonderful.

Actors and directors, in haste to take the money and run, usually put three-quels on cruise control, steering a plot-weary jalopy down the middle of the road with not much under the hood. In short order, three-quels are destined for the junkyard--better known as the discount DVD rack.

But Men in Black III easily outpaces MIB II, released a decade ago, and achieves a delicate balance between blockbuster fun and a sweet-as-you-please character-rich script.

The story opens by introducing us to Boris the Animal, a one-armed beast imprisoned on the moon. His confinement and lack of appendage has everything to do with Agent K, so it only goes to reason that Boris lives for revenge. The villain time-warps back to 1969, when K got the better of him (and his arm). That leaves it up to Agent J (Will Smith) to chase Boris back through time, with the help of a much-younger K, though Brolin's face-of-stone clearly hasn't aged well (to comic delight).

"Hey man, you got some city miles on you," says J, to which K doesn't lift an eyebrow.

Smith is his usual, over-the-top motormouth, a perfect foil for K.

J: "I'm an agent of Men in Black but I'm from the future. We're partners. Twenty-five years from now, you're gonna recruit me, and 14 years after that, the guy you didn't let me kill today at Coney Island, he escapes from prison and jumps back in the past and unleashes a full-scale invasion of Earth. We got about 19 hours to catch him and kill him so really, we need to go, right now."

(Extremely long pause)

K: "All right."

[ Video is no longer available. ]

MIB III visits the 1969 liftoff of Apollo 11, a Greenwich Village happening and a Chinese restaurant that you never want to visit (hint: don't order the noodle surprise).

And in the end, the film offers an all-too-rare happy ending: a twinkly surprise that explains so much about the men, their suits and their connection. It's nice stuff until the next go-round.

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