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May 28, 2017

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Was anyone clamoring for 'Men in Black 3'?

(Back to Scherzinger for a moment: She's one of the many nonsensical elements here, one of many characters and ideas that are introduced and then cast aside. She arrives at the prison and approaches Boris' cell in a beautifully framed opening sequence, then after a great deal of buildup is simply jettisoned. The absurdity of such randomness isn't even amusing; it just feels sloppy.)

Anyway, Boris returns to the summer of 1969, a few days before the historic Apollo 11 moon mission, and takes out Agent K. Agent J shows up for work in the present day and wonders what happened to his partner; once he figures it out, he jumps back a bit earlier to kill Boris before Boris can kill K. Time-travel plots can make you feel dizzy and nauseous if you try and pick them apart to determine whether they make sense, but once we reach our destination here, the jokes provide no pleasant escape. It's all super-obvious fish-out-of-water stuff and gags about how ridiculous hippies looked.

"Men in Black 3" begins to address the possibilities of how it must have felt for a strong black man in America during this tense time for race relations, then backs off. There's also a brief, clever bit in which Bill Hader plays Andy Warhol that might have worked as a separate "Saturday Night Live" sketch. Again, more opportunities squandered.

The best part of our trip to the '60s — the best part of the movie, period — is the arrival of the Young Agent K. Josh Brolin channels Jones in eerily dead-on fashion, from the bemused Texas twang to reticent demeanor to the slightest facial tics. It's also an amusing bit of casting given that a) the two actors co-starred in the Coen brothers' masterpiece "No Country for Old Men" and b) Brolin is supposed to be playing a 29-year-old version of Jones, even though he's in his mid-40s, and looks it.

As good as Brolin is, though, the novelty wears off quickly, and we're once again left with the realization that there's no substance to the script (credited, for the record, to Etan Cohen). And all the familiar and rather flat comic elements lead up to a revelatory climax that comes out of nowhere and in no way earns the sort of heartrending emotion it aims to evoke from its audience.

But the most disappointing part of all: Frank the talking pug is nowhere to be found. The movie is a dog anyway without him. ■

'Men in Black 3' (MIB星際戰警3) ► Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld / With Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin / Action / 2012 / USA / English with Chinese subtitles / 88 min. / ★★★★☆ / Now Showing

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