Men In Black (1997) – Review

4 Stars

This blockbuster from summer 1997 is a fresh and very funny sci-fi comedy with some truly groundbreaking (for its time) special effects. Director Barry Sonnenfeld and stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones working from a lively script by Ed Solomon have created an infectiously joyful film full of wonderful moments. The Men in Black or ‘MIB’ of the title are a secret organization that monitors all alien activity on Earth. Smith is an NYPD officer who’s recruited by Jones to be his eventual replacement. The story centers on the partnership of these two very different ‘cops’ and their pursuit of a giant cockroach inhabiting a human body.

Veteran character actor Vincent D’Onofrio is outstanding as the hillbilly farmer turned alien subspecies. His talent for physical comedy and awkwardness is the silly backbone to this preposterous and highly entertaining film. Smith’s street-wise delivery has never been more on target. His antics are anchored by the sturdy work of Jones. Speaking in a dry, matter-of-fact manner Jones is the perfect antithesis to the outrageous things happening around him.

Given the subject matter the unsuspecting viewer may be tricked into thinking this is a serious picture about a global conspiracy to cover up the presence of unwanted close encounters. Luckily the filmmakers have delivered an original, amusing comedy with witty dialogue and offbeat characters. Jeebs the pawn shop owner is a standout if only for the hysterical posturing by Tony Shalhoub. Many references are made to celebrities and their alien heritage, (Stallone, Spielberg, and Rodman) that generate big laughs. ‘MIB’ is perfect family entertainment with a ‘wow’ of a final shot and the best sci-fi comedy ever made.

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino

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