A palpably underwhelming sequel, Men in Black II follows Will Smith’s Agent Jay as he attempts to lure Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) out of retirement after a nefarious alien (Lara Flynn Boyle’s Serleena) arrives on the scene – with the film, as expected, detailing the pair’s ongoing efforts at tracking down and stopping the monstrous extraterrestrial. Like its predecessor, Men in Black II has been infused with an impressively brisk pace that does, admittedly, prove effective at immediately capturing one’s interest, as filmmaker Barry Sonnenfeld, working from Robert Gordon and Barry Fanaro’s screenplay, places an initial emphasis on Jay’s exploits with his new partner – with the strength of such scenes heightened by Smith’s charismatic performance (and also Patrick Warburton’s frequently hilarious turn as Jay’s incompetent sidekick). It’s worth noting, however, that the movie suffers from a curious lack of momentum even during its more overtly frenetic stretches, and there’s little doubt that the film, despite the consistent inclusion of decidedly over-the-top elements, inevitably morphs into a dishearteningly (and surprisingly) tedious experience. By the time the broadly-conceived (and executed) finale rolls around, Men in Black II has demonstrably established itself as a rather needless followup that’s sure to alienate even die-hard fans of the original.
** out of ****