[box cover]

Men in Black II

Give Barry Sonnenfeld his due: He's good with sequels. Surely the best films of this Coen Brothers-cinematographer-turned-director are the works where he firmly established characters he can tweak. 2002's sequel to the 1994 hit Men in Black is mostly more of the same with little variance, but the film is crammed with gags and jokes that hit a bit more than they miss. The story concerns an evil alien plant named Serleena (played in human form by Laura Flynn Boyle) that's here on Earth looking for the light of Zartha, which was denied her by the Men in Black 25 years earlier. But it turns out the only person who might know where to find the light is ex-agent K, Kevin Brown (Tommy Lee Jones), who was neuralized to forget his entire career with the MIB. It's up to the now-veteran and hard-assed J (Will Smith) to bring K back in and de-neuralize him, but the moment K returns, J starts losing his cool. And Zartha's light somehow revolves around pizza cashier Laura Vasquez (Rosario Dawson), whom J has fallen for. If you're looking for a good story, look elsewhere — basically the plot of Men in Black II is a backdrop for a bunch of deadpan gags and one liners; if the first film's story was lightweight, here it's virtually nonexistent. But if the movie feels like an excuse for a series of jokes (which it is), then so be it, because (during the film's barely feature-length 88-minute running time) there are plenty that are chuckle-worthy. It helps that the cast is loaded with ringers, many involved were in first film now doing only slightly different schticks (which is probably why the film gives off a strong odor of deja vu). Sophomores include David Cross (playing a different character), who takes over the movie for a couple of minutes to deliver its funniest moment, Tony Shaloub (back as Jeeves, the weird-looking alien who head gets shot off all the time) and the cute pug, while Patrick Wahrburton (funny as T — J's soon-to-be-replaced partner), and Johnny Knoxville (playing a two-headed alien) round out the cast. For the most part they deliver what they're expected to, but the picture gets most of its comic mileage out of frustrating Will Smith's character. Since Smith is a famously cool cat, and his part in the first film was played entirely as someone who could handle anything, it's all the more amusing to watch him lose his control. MIB2 may be marginal, but at least it amuses.

*          *          *

Sony has released Men in Black 2 in separately available two-discs sets: one in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and the other full-frame (1.33:1). Both come with the same extras and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. On Disc One is an audio commentary by Sonnenfeld, which is moderately amusing but of the back-patting set vs. location type we've come to expect from major releases. He can be accompanied by Telestrator graphics, which don't add anything to the presentation. Also available to interrupt the movie are on-the-fly icons entitled "Alien Broadcast," mostly which feature clips from the longer documentaries on Disc Two. Finishing out the first disc's supplements are two trailers for this film, bonus trailers, and the six-minute short film "The Chubb Chubbs," which played with the film during its theatrical run. On Disc Two is the MIB Orb, which allows the user to play nine short featurettes in any order. Those featurettes are: "MIB ADR," "Design in Motion - The look of MIB II," "Rick Baker - Alien Maker," "Serleena," "Jeff," "Frank the Pug," "Squish, Splat, Sploosh - The Stellar Sounds of MIB II," "Cosmic Symphonies - Elfman in Space," and "Alien Esoterica." Next up is the "Outtakes," which run about five minutes of people flubbing lines, while the Serlena Animatic sequence shows her entrance blocked out on the computer. Also on board is a multi-angle deconstruction, which takes the user through a few sections of the film ("Opening Sequence - Alternate Version," "Jay and Jeff" "Car Chase" "Jarra Fight Scene 1," and "Jarra fight Scene 2") in various stages of production. An alternate ending is included, and it's a bit mean to one of the characters, while the section "Creature Featurettes" features short spots on key aliens, but mostly overlaps with the MIB Orb, which also overlaps with the Alien Broadcast. In this section is the bonus feature "Barry Sonnenfeld's Intergalatic Guide to Comedy" can be found. Rounding out the set is the music video for the closing credit song "Black Suits Comin' (nod your head)," a one-sheet poster collection, and cast and crew bios. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.

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