The original Men in Black is a classic. It was funny, full of great alien adventures, and Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones had a lot of chemistry as polar opposite partners. Simply put, it had all the makings of a memorable movie and remains, to this day, a go-to favorite. Men in Black: International definitely lives up to its name in that it’s, well, international. The plot twist is a bit of a reach and the only comedic moments come from Kumail Nanjiani’s Pawny. However, the film somehow manages to be better than the franchise’s other sequels, even though it’s missing some humor and spark

Directed by F. Gary Gray (The Fate of the Furious), with a script by Matt Holloway and Art Marcum, MIB: International certainly attempts to maintain the spirit of the original. Its plot has certain similarities without being a copy and makes at least a couple of callbacks. The new story follows Agent M (Tessa Thompson), who first had contact with an alien as a child. While her parents were Neuralyzed, she was not and helped the alien get away from the Men in Black agents. She then spent 20 years trying to find the Men in Black, applying for the FBI and CIA in hopes she’d discover an agency that was never meant to be discovered. After finally tracking them down, Agent O (Emma Thompson) makes her a probationary agent and sends her to London to work with Agents High T (Liam Neeson) and H (Chris Hemsworth).

Giles Keyte/Sony Pictures

Meanwhile, three years prior to M joining the organization, High T (a truly hilarious name) and Agent H took on the Hive, one of the most threatening alien groups in the universe, with “nothing but our wits” and a couple of company-issued guns, and somehow lived to tell the tale. When Agent M and Agent H work together to stop a new alien threat from getting their hands on a galaxy-destroying weapon, they realize there might be a mole in the agency

MIB: International definitely feels familiar, while also making it a point to showcase just how much the agency has grown since we last saw it. The universe expands, as it were, and does so without having to touch upon the exact same things as its predecessors. However, while it’s an enjoyable film and a solid outing for the franchise, it’s hard not to take issue with the fact that it’s not really much of a comedy. Up until the introduction of Pawny (perfectly voiced by Kumail Nanjiani), an alien whose queen had been killed and who then vows to loyally serve Agent M, there’s little to laugh about. Hemsworth, usually on point in his comedic timing, misses the mark and the film often goes a long stretch before there’s something to chuckle about.

Giles Keyte/Sony Pictures

Additionally, and it’s hard to even write this, Thompson and Hemsworth (who sizzle together in Thor: Ragnarok), don’t have that same amount of sparkling chemistry here. It’s strange because it’s clear the film is leaning towards a potential romantic connection, but couldn’t go all the way and so it holds back in every other respect. It just winds up making their partnership underwhelming and so many of their moments fall flat because of it. It’s also glaring considering their off-kilter friendship is meant to ground the film (they’re opposites just like Jones and Smith were), especially amidst some of the ridiculousness.

Part of that may lie in F. Gary Gray’s directing choices. His last major directing credits include more dramatic films like Law Abiding Citizen and Straight Outta Compton. Still, this is the same man who also directed Friday, so it’s not like comedy is a foreign concept. It’s just that MIB: International lacks an overall sense of comedic absurdity and outrageousness that the original had and it lacks a lot of spirit. It aims to please without infusing as much personality into it, which is necessary considering the things the characters deal with.

Pawny for Columbia Pictures’ MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL.

Although the film is definitely international (the film goes from New York to London, Morocco and Italy), there still isn’t much in the way of inclusion despite the film’s attempts to point out that the agency is still called Men in Black. That’s due to “attachment issues,” claims an exasperated Agent O. The statement lacks any power, however, considering Agents O and M appear to be the only women in the agency and when assembled, all of the other agents are white men.

Ultimately, though, Men in Black: International is a solid, inoffensive blockbuster, but one that doesn’t quite live up to the comedic levels of the original film. It boasts a great cast that isn’t always allowed to live up to its potential, and that lessens its overall impact and thwarts all its potential at being a great film rather than just an average sequel.

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'Men in Black: International' is a solid, inoffensive blockbuster, but one that doesn’t quite live up to the comedic levels of the original film.

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About Author

Mae is a Washington, DC-based film critic, entertainment journalist and Weekend Editor at Heroic Hollywood. A member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), she's a geek who loves discussing movies and TV. She is also a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. If she's not at the movies, she's catching up on her superhero TV-watching, usually with a glass of wine in hand.

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