Men in Black II (2002)

Rating: B-

Dir: Barry Sonnenfeld
Star: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Lara Flynn Boyle, Johnny Knoxville

Yes, this is a cynical cash-in, inspired entirely by greed. And you expected perhaps…? Yet, while plot and characters are largely recycled, it’s done with enough style and invention to make me forgive such mercenary cynicism – though I confess the fabulous CGI short which preceded this in the cinema, The Chubb Chubbs, had me grinning broadly before the main feature even started. Smith and Jones return as agents J + K, once more protecting the Earth from the scum of the universe (Boyle and Knoxville), who are after some widget or other left here three decades ago. Only K knows its whereabouts, which is unfortunate, since he has had his memory wiped and is working in a rural post office.

Despite some surprisingly variable effects – Boyle’s tentacles and Knoxville’s second head are particularly unconvincing (actually, Knoxville’s first head isn’t much better) – there are moments of brilliance, such as an entire civilization living in a left-luggage locker, worshipping anyone who opens the door. This, and the pop-culture jabs, are highly effective, and the Smith/Jones chemistry is as reliable as ever – the latter manages a surprisingly poignant moment at the end. Even if the product placement is unsubtle (Sprint and Burger King in particular – though the Ebay nod made me laugh), the hardware on view has clearly been the object of much loving creation and you’ve gotta laugh at a pug singing I Will Survive. Or maybe that’s just me…