By Eleanor Ringel Cater
I dutifully took myself to “Men in Black 3” and report on it almost as dutifully.
I was a huge fan of the first movie. There was, I remember, a special screening on a Sunday morning to accommodate some New York Times type and I dragged myself to it because, back then, I had to see everything.
Thankfully, that’s no longer true.
But to my considerable surprise, I adored the movie. I thought the cheesy special effects were just right, as was the chemistry between the Men in Black, Smith and Jones (as in Will and Tommy Lee)
That was 1997. Skip ahead to 2002 and the sequel. It was, in a word, unwatchable. The usual, we-need-more-money Hollywood-think. In fact, I can hardly remember anything about it, while I can still cite specific scenes from the first version.
Version No. 3 is an acceptable in-betweener. That is, the thrill is definitely gone, but Smith isn’t and neither, for about ¼ of the movie, is Tommy Lee. However, the plot, as you may already know, calls for Smith to travel back to 1969 to change history and save the young Jones.
Who is incarnated — wonderfully, amazingly — by Josh Brolin. He has the whole bit: the voice, the intonation, the physicality, even a fine approximation of Jones’s steely glare.
The 1969 stuff is terrible. Sloppy and dumb and just insulting. Like the supposed 1972 we saw in “Dark Shadows.” (Hey, Tim Burton, “There’s a Summer Place” did NOT come out in 1972.
Anyway, if you are gauging which of the early summer blockbusters to suffer through with the kids or the grandkids or the nephews or the nieces or…I rate ‘em like this:
“The Avengers” is still the best bang for your buck, i.e., the most tolerable for anyone who’d rather be at “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
Next, I’d say “Men in Black 3,” mostly because it’s relatively harmless.
After that, “Dark Shadows,” if only because it’s shorter than “Battleship.”
Well, I take that back. “Battleship” is unbearable. Period. Dark Shadows” at least has a few cool cars.