Listless and unimaginative are the adjectives that come to mind when trying to best describe “Men in Black International.” For a well-known blockbuster franchise starring two charismatic leads, this installment falls dreadfully, and somewhat surprisingly, flat.
When Molly (Mandeiya Flory) is young, she encounters the Men in Black during an alien visitation. The agents wipe her parent’s memories, but hers is left intact because they don’t realize she’s there. Molly grows up obsessed with these men she saw. She becomes convinced that there’s a secret government agency that deals with aliens. She makes it her life purpose to seek them out.
Through some detective work, Molly ends up finding the Men in Black headquarters and is subsequently hired for her creativity and tenacity. Sadly, this script calls for Molly, now Agent M (Tessa Thompson) to be the shy nerd type. Thompson is an engaging young actress and here she’s given very little to work with.
She ends up working with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) who is the talker in the partnership. Hemsworth is such a great comedic actor when he’s given the right material. However, this screenplay simply asks him to not stop talking — reminiscent of the worst kind of Vince Vaughn roles. He just keeps going and going, while nothing he’s saying is all that funny.
“International” never attempts to offer anything new to the franchise. Instead it’s content to rehash familiar sequences (like the suiting up montage) without creating much in the way of new, original material.
After the first twenty minutes the movie seems to shift into auto-pilot mode. It listlessly drones on and on as inventive action scenes and fun alien hijinks are few and far between. Halfway through this slog they introduce a tiny cartoonish wise-cracking sidekick named Pawney (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) who is neither wise nor funny.
It goes through the motions, checking all the cliché boxes, and never attempting to venture out on its own. It feels like a movie without purpose populated by characters with the thinnest of motivations.
At least the partnership between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones felt organic as a truly hilarious odd couple. Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth are just two beautiful people thrown together in a summer movie.
It’ll be hard to find a movie as aggressively mediocre as this one. It’s never so awful that you regret buying your tickets, but you know the moment you walk out of the theater you’ll forget at least half of what you saw (maybe all of it) — a cinematic version of a Men in Black neuralyzer.