[Screen It]


(2019) (Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth) (PG-13)

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Sci-Fi/Action: A young woman joins a secret organization that deals with extraterrestrials and must contend with the dangerous behavior and plans of some of those that have newly arrived on Earth.
Ever since she was a little kid who encountered a small extraterrestrial in her bedroom and then saw Men in Black agents wipe her parents' memories of the event clean, Molly (TESSA THOMPSON) has been enamored with all things alien and MiB related. Years after looking for clues, she finally sees them in action, figures out where their headquarters is located, and waltzes into the place dressed in the usual attire and acting like she knows what she's doing.

She's captured but impresses Agent O (EMMA THOMPSON) enough that the MiB leader assigns her to the London bureau where she's to work for High T (LIAM NEESON). There are rumors that something is amiss there, no doubt stirred by Agent C (RAFE SPALL) believing that favored son Agent H (CHRIS HEMSWORTH) is coasting by on nothing more than a past "I saved the world" moment with High T a few years back. Nonetheless, Agent H is assigned to escort an alien royal member, Vungus the Ugly (KAYVAN NOVAK), during his stopover on Earth and Molly, now dubbed Agent M, talks her way into accompanying them.

But other aliens show up and kill Vungus, but not before he gives Agent M a small device that others now want, including intergalactic arms dealer Riza (REBECCA FERGUSON) who once dated Agent H. With the help of another tiny alien, Pawny (voice of KUMAIL NANJIANI), the MiB duo try to keep the device out of the hands of the villains.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
My wife and I have a running joke with another couple about our visit to the famous Biltmore Estate outside Asheville, North Carolina many moons ago. Having been duped by a wily salesperson that we not only needed to tour the building and grounds during the day but also come back that night to see the Christmas decorations, we were disappointed that the "it will feel completely different" sales pitch was just a ruse.

Thus, and to make ourselves feel better, we joked that the second time there was really the first, and that eventually segued over to acting as if we'd never been to the place at all. "Biltmore? Never been. Sounds like a fun trip."

Of course, in the old days (pre-1997) we could have used the old Betty and Barney Hill excuse that we had been abducted by aliens -- of the extraterrestrial variety -- who wiped our memories of the event. But with "Men in Black" having been released not too many years before our trip, we simply said we must have been neuralized by those light pen devices used by the characters played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones to make common folk forget any such related encounter or sighting.

Well, those devices must have similarly been used on yours truly because without looking up my past reviews or other related information, I'd swear I never saw the sequels to that sci-fi comedy hit. Yet, it appears "Men in Black 2" and "Men in Black 3" were released five and fifteen years after the original, but I couldn't tell you a thing about them.

Alas, that's probably going to hold true for "Men in Black: International," the fourth film in the series that switches things up a bit by having a woman as one of the two leads. Beyond that, though, there's nothing here that's remarkable and certainly not memorable, unlike the original film that checked off all the boxes as an enjoyable and entertaining offering mixing sci-fi and action into a mismatched buddy comedy offering.

With both Smith and Jones MIA, I originally figured this was a reboot of the series. Instead, it's just a continuation spin-off where Tessa Thompson plays a young woman who years earlier as a child saw a MiB team wipe her parents' memories with a neuralizer, with none of them realizing she had a small alien in her bedroom. Enamored with all things alien over the years, she eventually catches the MiB agents in action, finds their headquarters, and waltzes in, already dressed the part, to volunteer her services.

She impresses the boss there (played by Emma Thompson, no relation) enough that she's assigned as a probationary agent to head to London (thus the international part of the title) to work for that office's boss (Liam Neeson). She ends up convincing his protégé (Chris Hemsworth) that he needs a partner and then, well, I've already started to forget the rest of the plot.

I do recall there are a few aliens (including a tiny one voiced by Kumail Nanjiani); a rival in the office (Rafe Spall) who doesn't think much of Agent H coasting on his past laurels; a past girlfriend meets intergalactic arms dealer (Rebecca Fergusson) who'd make an excellent card dealer and shuffler considering her unique physical attributes; a quite powerful weapon; and talk of a possible mole in the MiB operation.

New to the fold director F. Gary Gray -- who takes over the reins from Barry Sonnenfeld who helmed the first three films -- tries to wrangle all of that material provided by scribes Matt Holloway & Art Marcum, but the results are mixed at best and everything doesn't coalesce into anything brilliant, let alone novel (what with being four installments now into the series).

But Tessa Thompson is a refreshing addition and she has some good chemistry with Hemsworth (who must deal with a barely drawn character, albeit with at least one good visual gag during a fight scene). It's Nanjiani who steals much of the show voicing the royal pawn character nicknamed Pawny who gets more than his share of one-liners.

Alas, that effort and most everything else about "Men in Black: International" will go the way of the Biltmore tour inside my head, neuralized into a wiped-clean memory where nothing remains beyond the nagging question of "Did they ever make a fourth 'Men in Black' film?" This one rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed June 11, 2019 / Posted June 14, 2019

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