Men in Black: International (2019)

“I’ve been in this situation before.”

As a big budget Summer tent-pole movie lacking charisma or the necessary tools to rig or to maintain a proper pitch, Men in Black: International pretty much implodes in on itself before this slapdash, refurbished story can ever find a full head of steam. I’m not sure any sad soul would have wished this movie into existence given the chance, nor can you tell who else it might have been made for. MiB: International has no built-in target audience, too little substance, and it has all the personality of a picture frame stuffed with a stock photo full of fake smiles. It’s easy to navigate the nonsensical, often blinding swaths of action when you’re being guided by such an auto-pilot picture.

Expanding the borders of the original installments, MiB: International stretches as far and wide as the title suggests, with all the serious of a toddler threatening to run away from home. It’s set in the modern day, overseen by Agent High T (Liam Neeson), a past partner of the living legend Agent H (Chris Hemsworth in his first unlikable and sour performance to date). Together they defeated “The Hive” a few years back. The other early storyline involves a young girl who becomes obsessed over a brief encounter of the third kind. She’s Molly (Tessa Thompson), a grown and matured and booksmart hacker who’s hell-bent on discovering the agency, not to pull their secretive masks like an episode from Scooby-Doo, but to hopefully become a full blown agent. She’s see this as the only avenue to satiate her thirst for exploring the vastness of the Universe. Her talent is undeniable and needed, especially by the faltering Agent H.

So much happens in¬†MiB: International, and yet so very little of the action ever adds up to anything of importance or consequence. The script suffers from a pretty uncommon problem. Most big movies get deflated by massive pot holes in the plot, yet this one is undone by constant diversions, giving us too many mandatory on and off ramps with such short straightaways that director F. Gary Gray can never shift into second or third gear. He doesn’t add much personality to the picture – nor do the leads, who have good chemistry off-screen but none here in these poorly conceived characters, and are no match for the comedic voice talent of Kumail Nanjiani – and the whole thing is way too unexpectedly raunchy and happily stupid. There are generic fights, nameless and boring villains, and a lame story twist that’s such a premeditated knot and so frustratingly messy that we leave it as a balled up clump in the corner of the room.

MiB: International is like a drive-thru car wash. You file into line, are guided onto the tracks, get sprayed down before rolling through on the conveyor belt. It’s full of bells and whistles, foaming colors and acid rain, a deluge of water followed by billows from strong fans. This movie cleanses you of grime and promises an anti-rusting protective layer. And then you pull out only to have a bird drop a healthy load square on your windshield. MiB: International tries so hard to be a quick and pleasant theme park ride in feature film form, but it can’t escape or ignore the inevitable crap looming overhead in the real world. It’s thoroughly misguided, perhaps because the pandering modern style and the dull script are completely cross-eyed in their so-called shared vision. Skip this black tie event.

“Sometimes the Universe gets it wrong.”

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

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