Review: Men In Black (1997)

1 view
Skip to first unread message

Craig Good

Jul 2, 1997, 3:00:00 AM7/2/97

Men in Black (1997)

No more calls, we have a winner.

Finally: A big, effects-laden summer movie that is actually worth the
time and the $7.50 to go see. "Men In Black" takes precise aim at its
target and scores a bullseye. It almost unfailingly hits the right tone
and the right character moments throughout. Vincent D'Onofrio should
get an Oscar nomination. Tommy Lee Jones plays it straight. Will Smith
isn't annoying. About the only cast member not used to her potential is
Linda Fiorentino. A quibble.

While certainly no "Chinatown", the script (yes, there actually was
one) shows clear evidence of thought on the part of the writers. In
case the writers or producers of the summer's other megaduds are
reading, I'll repeat those strange words slowly so they can sound them
out: "S-c-r-i-p-t". "T-h-o-u-g-h-t."

Refreshingly free of forced one-liners, we are instead treated to
exchanges with some actual wit.

"He said the world was going to end."

"Did he say when?"

The production design by Bo Welch ("Batman Returns", "Edward
Scissorhands", "Wolf") is deliciously good. The cinematography by
Donald Peterman ("Get Shorty", "Point Break", "Flashdance") under Barry
Sonnenfeld's direction is both clear and energetic.

A great part of the fun is that the movie manages to both skewer
blockbuster summer movies and be a blockbuster summer movie. My dad
taught me as a kid that the best riders at the rodeo were always the
clowns. You have to be good at something to poke fun of it.

"Men In Black" is a welcome relief for those who thought they'd have to
wait for Oscar season before having fun at the movies.

--Craig (
Data are what you have when you have more than one datum.

Steve Kong

Jul 2, 1997, 3:00:00 AM7/2/97

In a recent interview when asked what he did in Men in Black, Tommy Lee
Jones gave a simple answer, "You can't be too cool in this movie." Isn't
that the truth Mr. Jones. And cool he is along with Mr. Smith.

I don't remember laughing so hard and much during any recent movie that
I've seen. Men In Black is an all out sci-fi comedy from Barry Sonnenfeld
(Get Shorty, The Addams Family). There is a story that carries on in Men In
Black, but it's pretty thin. And that's a good thing. For a movie like MIB
there's nothing more annoying than a heavy plot to weight down the movie.
MIB takes from comic roots, and the story seems to be on that line too,
simple and to the point, nothing that gets in the way of the comedy and
special effects.

Tommy Lee Jones plays Agent K, who works for the super secret MIB group.
They answer to no one, because government asks too many questions.
Patenting alien technology and selling it here on Earth creates the funds
needed to run the MIB group. The MIB serves as the INS (Immigration and
Naturalization Service) of the universe. They get aliens on Earth, and keep
track of them. Will Smith plays a NYPD cop who is recruited by Agent K to
work for the MIB and he soon becomes Agent J. Smith, who did some alien
hunting in Independence Day, gets more to do in this film. And it is a
well-deserved part for Smith. Together K and J must find a "bug" who has
crash landed here on Earth and is trying to steal a universe in Orion's
Belt. Well, there's the story. Pretty simple, but enough to keep the
audience at bay for just under two hours.

The bug that has crash-landed here on Earth takes over the body of a
farmer, Edgar, played very well by Vincent D'Onofrio. The alien has a hard
time inhabitting Edgar's body, and this is one of the comedy bits that runs
through the movie. Seeing the alien walk around in Edgar's body,
uncomfortable and crowded. The comedy in the movie comes in all forms, some
from J encountering new aliens to aliens who take the bodies of bulldogs.
Tommy Lee Jones, who admits in interviews that he is not a comedic actor,
pulls a great performance out of the hat. His seriousness on the screen
equates to some of the funniest scenes. Will Smith who is a natural comic
does well (again) as an alien-hunter.
The overall production value is noticeable. The aliens are incredibly
detailed, I especially liked the Ambassador alien who lives in a man's
head. This alien is so life like in the movie that it was a
how-did-they-do-that moment. The break-room aliens were also hilarious.
But, these are just a few of the many aliens that inhabit the world of MIB.
And unlike some sci-fi movies where all the aliens are humanoid and speak
English, MIB is populated by aliens who are of all shapes and sizes and
speak their own native languages. The set designs, alien designs, and
costume designs are all well done. From the simple black suits that MIB
agents wear to aliens whose heads regenerate after being shot, the movie
just drips with big, well done production values.

In the worth mentioning section, I have to mention two things. First is the
film score by Danny Elfman. Yet another great movie score by Elfman
(Batman, Mission:Impossible, Nightmare Before Christmas). The music fits so
well with the film that it is hardly noticeable at times. The second thing
that is worth mentioning is the opening sequence that follows a mosquito in
flight for five minutes, during the credits, before an untimely death.

Men In Black is one of those heavily hyped films that doesn't disappoint.
It has a well-balanced blend of laugh-out-loud comedy and
eye-opening-special effects that will appeal to everyone. Go see Men In
Black, you won't be sorry.

steve kong
spy on me at:

Seth Bookey

Jul 7, 1997, 3:00:00 AM7/7/97

Men in Black (1997)

Seen on 3 July 1997 with Andrea for $8.75 at the SONY 84th St. theatre,
where MiB played in all six threatres.

My initial fear: Once again I was going on opening weekend to an already
overhyped movie, another idiotic supersummermegablockbuster with "hit"
written all over it simply because a lot of money has been put into
advertising and Newsweek has seen fit to ignore North Korean famine and
put Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones on their cover last week.

Needless to say I was very pleasantly surprised.

The writing was quickly paced and witty; the special effects were
excellent; all the performances on target. The likelihood of a sequel
welcome. The only thing missing, thank god, were the fag jokes.

In *Men in Black*, Earth is a planet-sized safe house for a variety of
aliens, most of whom are conveniently located in the New York Metropolitan
Area. A special unit, the Men in Black, keep track of alien activity and
keep the world "safe for humanity." This involves chasing down renegades
and making humans forget they ever saw anything. This has some emotional
price, though: all MiBs must cut off all ties with their lives and
dedicate themselves to their task, using the *Star* and the *National
Enquirer* as authoritative news sources.

Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) recruits NYPD officer James Edwards (who becomes
Jay) t. His agility and offbeat ways suit their needs, and
K and Zed (Rip Torn) decide to mold him into one of their agents.

By the second day on the job, though, the world is in danger, and it is up
to J and K to save it. They inadvertently get help from Laurel (Linda
Fiorentino), a NYC coroner who prefers the dead, and sometimes a cat, to
the most living humans.

Just as Jay and Kay are introduced in dramatic fashion, so is the villain,
whose ship crashes into farmer Edgar's (Vincent D'Onofrio) truck. Edgar's
body is quickly used as a host to an intergalactic giant cockroach who has
come to assassinate an alien royal and start interplanetary war. He sort
of "deteriorates" along they way, so the talented but hard to place
D'Onofrio (Household Saints, Full Metal Jacket) is even harder to place
here, as his voice sounds more like Christopher Lloyd's than his own.

There is something joyous about a movie that hits so many marks so well.
The dialogue crackles without sagging under innuendo (like Batman &
Robin). The opening sequence, accompanied by Danny Elfman's score (great
as always), draws you in, and almost every scene succeeds, whether it is
involving special effects, sight gags, or truly evocative mise-en-scene
(note the later scene in the coroner's office). New York City is used in
every outdoor shot, but it is not the New York people are used to seeing
in the movies--the Bridge and Tunnel Authority building, the armory on
25th Street, the rotting ruins of the 1964 World's Fair (used in the

Men in Black comes at a perfect time, when UFO movies abound, The X Files
is part of the national consciousness, and the Roswell incident celebrates
its fiftieth anniversary. It's a relief not to see the "unravelling
conspiracy" scenario for the umpteenth time, and it's fun to watch Jones,
Smith, Fiorentino, and Torn chew the scenery.

Major Motiion Picture Distractions: Sat next to a man who sucked his teeth
and laughed like the cartoon character Muttley. I am sure that explained
his sex appeal, as he had a young lady friend in tow. He snacked on
pretzel nuggets and spilled salt all over his pants. How dreamy.

Copyright 1997 Seth J. Bookey, New York, NY 10021

Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages