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Published: Wednesday, 7/3/2002

Men in Black II: Sequel is fun, but lacks the surprises of the original

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Let's get it over with first: Men in Black II is not as good as the original.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld's 1997 hit introduced the elite intergalactic cop unit known as the Men in Black, with Tommy Lee Jones as its best agent, Kay, and Will Smith as the rookie agent, Jay. There were surprises everywhere: apparent humans who morphed into their original alien forms, talking dogs, and weird weaponry.

For the millions of people who helped the original to gross more than $585 million worldwide, this sequel will offer few surprises.

This doesn't mean that MIB II is a dud. After all, it still has Jones and Smith and their snappy black sunglasses, and that's almost enough.

Actually, it doesn't have Jones for a good quarter of the movie. At the end of the last movie, Agent Jay “neuralized” Agent Kay, removing his MIB memories, so that Kay could return to civilian life and the woman he once loved. Now it's four years later, and Jay has become a cynical, by-the-book agent who has a reputation for neuralizing partners who displease him. And almost all of them do, because none is as good as his original partner, Kay. (Patrick Warburton of TV's short-lived The Tick has a brief role but is a hoot as Agent Tee, Jay's latest partner.)

Jay doesn't have too much trouble keeping the aliens in line (except for Jeff, the subway worm) until Serleena arrives. Serleena, a many-tentacled Kylothian, has the ability to shape-shift, and the shape it chooses is that of a sexy lingerie model.

Now in human form, Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) and her two-headed henchman (Johnny Knoxville), set out to find the Light of Zaartha, which will give Serleena immeasurable power. Their first stop is a pizzeria, where they “interrogate” the owner, an alien of course, as a waitress, Laura (Rosario Dawson), watches from her hiding place.

Soon Jay is on the scene to learn what he can, but instead of neuralizing the lovely and obviously interested Laura, he lets her have her memories, especially those of him.

Back at headquarters, leader Zed (Rip Torn) tells Jay that the only person who knows the location of the Light of Zaartha is Kay, who no longer has his MIB memories. He sends Jay to retrieve Kay from his job as a postmaster. But before Jay can get Kay deneuralized, Serleena and her minions take over the MIB headquarters.

Of course, Jay and Kay have to save the Light of Zaartha and vanquish Serleena, but that's all in a day's work.

Jones and Smith are skilled actors, but this time the chemistry isn't as sharp. They're doing more than going through the motions, but they don't seem to be having as much fun. The wisecracks go both ways this time, as Jay, now the top dog, tries to get along with Kay, who thinks he's still the boss.

Many of the characters are back from the first movie, including Tony Shalhoub as Jeebs the pawnshop owner, the Worm Guys, and Frank the talking pug.

Maybe that's the problem. It's not that MIB II doesn't have much of a story to tell. Heck, the original movie didn't have much of a story, but it was fresh, irreverent, and witty with a great dynamic between the veteran and the rookie. This time around, the movie is fun, but the thrill is gone.



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