Jay is now MiB's top agent monitoring alien activity on Earth. But when an old menace, Serleena, returns in search of the hidden Light of Zartha, the Earth's very existence is threatened.
So Malibu Comics' finest, the boys in black, are back after a five-year absence. It doesn't seem as if they've been away so long. On the one hand, that's a tribute. They were - and are - such sarcastically engaging characters that only a dour party pooper could seriously object to stepping out with them.
They're still looking mighty fine as they go about their business defending the galaxy from alien SFX supremo Rick Baker's ooky, many-tentacled, many-toothed thingies (being humanoid-centric is not a charge that can be levelled at this latex-dependent, wondrously visualised sci-fi franchise).
On the other hand, the decidedly sketchy script is what you'd expect from a more rushed job. It's as if all those other films Smith and Jones have made in the meantime - and the threatened Hollywood strikes that postponed production further - had not given the undeniably clever Sonnenfeld enough time to develop anything more than a bizarre combination of wit, encores of japes from the original film, and some faintly desperate silliness.
Perhaps that is asking too much. As sequels go, this is never less than cute; although we do find it slightly embarrassing that Frank the Pug (promoted from his previous diplomatic status to Jay's latest partner) sitting in the car singing - oh, you've guessed - Who Let The Dogs Out? should make us giggle quite so much as it does.
This is not to suggest there aren't some superbly ridiculous and wickedly twisted jests: a 600-foot subway-swallowing worm named Jeffrey; the return of the large-living 'Worm Guys'; Kay's working environment at the U.S. Post Office. And when our men follow the cryptic trail of clues Kay left for himself, in case he forgot where he put the Light Of Zartha, there's a quite fantastic, sensationally funny find in a train station locker.
It also ends on a brilliant sight gag that's as philosophically unnerving as the original film's punchline. Jones and Smith (and the always welcome Torn as unflappable Zed) are naturally the most fun. As for the rest, Flynn Boyle disproves the Duchess Of Windsor's infamous dictate that you can never be too thin, but gives suitably camp seductive villainy to her monster in the borrowed form of a lingerie model.
Head-sprouting Jeebs, the talking dog and the chain-smoking, martini-swilling Worm Guys do their things (again). But the tentative romance between lonely Jay and waitress- witness Laura is a non-starter; not surprising, really, given the hectic under-90-minutes-including-the-lengthy-credits remit, during which the rather more pressing matters of foiling Serleena's MIB HQ hostage siege and saving the Earth unfurl.
Men In Black 2
Released: 27 January 2003
The film may not be up to much, but the DVD redeems itself when it comes to the extras offered on this two-disc extravaganza.
Disc one offers the now obligatory commentary, which comes with the added gimmick of directorial diagrams (essentially, big white circles drawn around everything mentioned by Barry Sonnenfeld during the course of his entertaining talk). It’s an interesting way of livening things up, but you can always plump for the audio-only option if you don’t fancy the idea of the screen being scribbled on at regular intervals. There’s also a string of trailers (for other Columbia titles) and a bizarre ‘training video’ which gives hints and tips for identifying celebrity aliens. The latter is clearly aimed at the British market, given that it includes participation from the likes of Vernon Kay and Caprice.
Some of the featurettes on the first disc, and indeed on the second, are disappointingly short, but there are more than enough of them, on every possible topic, from soundbites by cast members to ‘how did they do that?’ footage of the aliens, to compensate for this.
Throw in DVD-Rom features, outtakes (essentially Smith and Jones fluffing their lines and giggling a lot) and animated storyboards of Serleena’s transformation sequence (which you can’t help thinking would have benefited from some commentary of its own), and the result is hugely satisfying. If only they’d put as much effort and thought into the film.
Strange, zany, generally amusing and very likeable without actually being all that hilarious or surprising, Men In Black II relies heavily on familiarity with and affection for the original. For fans of that film, who are simply content with more of the same,
Reviewed by Angie Errigo