Yesterday, this column reviewed the science fiction classic “The Matrix,” which came out in 1999. Throughout the 1990s, there were many solid sci-fi films. Whereas “The Matrix” provoked deep contemplation and serious debates, at the other end of the spectrum we find “Men in Black,” which prompted smiles and guffaws.
“Men in Black” are employees of a secret agency, based in New York City, who monitor the actions of aliens on earth. The basic premise the viewer has to accept is that aliens are everywhere in the disguise of humans, and most people are unaware of them. Most aliens are law-abiding citizens who conform to the basic rules of human citizenship. But others are dangerous, hence the need for oversight. One of the seasoned veterans of the agency, Agent Kay (played by Tommy Lee Jones), needs a new partner. After chasing down a very fast alien, young, clearly together cop James Edwards (played by Will Smith) piques Kay’s attention. After passing an extremely clever entrance exam, James is offered the job and is renamed Jay. For their first task as partners, they must find an alien bug that has hidden itself in a farmer (played by Vincent D’Onofrio).
Riffing off of law enforcement, science fiction, monster, and buddy movies, “Men in Black” is hysterical. The humor stems from superb dialogue, inventive situations and terrific sight gags. Each alien is more bizarre than the one before.
The special effects are very well-done. In the climax, we see a giant alien, who looks quite real. The Men in Black headquarters employs many aliens performing the mundane jobs of keeping a bureaucratic office running..
The cast is excellent. As Jay and Kay, Smith and Jones are a delightful acting pair to watch. They have great chemistry. Vincent D’Onofrio makes a fun villain, who has a very odd way of walking. Another memorable performance is by Linda Fiorentino, who plays an attractive doctor who works in a morgue. She often sees aliens, and her memory is always erased by the Men in Black.
“Men in Black” is a great choice for fans of science fiction comedies.