Men In Black 3

CALLING ALL GREMLINS: Things aren't pretty in New York, but it's business as usual for Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) in 'Men in Black 3.'

In the decade since this franchise's last outing, the world must have gotten more xenophobic, because in Men in Black 3, Will Smith's Agent J spends time complaining about the weirdness of shawarma and the unidentifiable filth to be found in a Chinese restaurant. This moment exists only so that we can have an alien, who is pretending to be Chinese, say "so solly" —if that makes it funnier. All of this confusing foreign grub is contrasted to the mentally healing power of a slice of American pie. A reference to Twin Peaks? Or a symbol of a franchise turning cranky?

Men in Black 3 commences with the hairy one-armed Boris the Animal (Flight of the Conchords star Jermaine Clement) breaking from jail and heading to settle an old score with Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Meanwhile, the never more fey Agent J seeks paternal male-love from his partner. Not a chance, since Tommy Lee is far too Texan. J time-hops back to 1969 in an effort to head off an alien invasion and meet up with the younger K. (Josh Brolin, doing a fine pickup of Jones' mannerisms). The agents are aided by Griffin, an alien bag-gentleman who sees in five dimensions; he's played by Michael Stuhlbarg of A Serious Man, doing his best Robin Williams, outfitted with layers of clothing, a yarn hat, bulgy blue contact lenses and a blissed-out grin.

It's not an immersive version of the past. The finale is set at Cape Canaveral (instead of Cape Kennedy, as it was in '69). The duo attend a party at Warhol's Factory where the password is "Janis Joplin"; the scene is set a year after that factory closed, and the loft has a welcome-to-all banner on the outside, as if the private studio were a carpet warehouse.

A joke or two stands out (such as J's mid-air detour through 1929). But Men in Black 3 lacks seriously without women even as eye-candy, not counting the contemptuous use of a moll (Nicole Scherzinger) or Emma Thompson (and Alice Eve as her younger self) as the lady boss.

There's only so much male bonding a man can stand. And considering the threat of evil invasion, MIB III is undervillained. It must be hard work writing professional wrestler/supervillain threats. The Animal is left with lines like "Let's agree to disagree!" and "Arrggh!"

Men In Black 3

PG-13; 106 min.

Opens Friday, valleywide

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