Men In Black: International takes the franchise to Europe in a sluggish sequel. There are sprinkles of clever humor, but the chemistry between the leads falls flat. This is an entirely unexpected flaw. Co-stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson were an affable pair in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame. It would have been a safe bet to see the good vibes continue here. That’s not the case at all. They’re strangely awkward and forced in their performances. It’s a flaw too big to overcome with a retread of sorts story. Several plot points feel plucked from the first film.
A young girl secretly witnesses an extraterrestrial encounter in New York City. She grows up fascinated with the mysterious Men in Black that covered up the event. She foregoes any personal connections in life to her search. Years of effort pays off in another bizarre experience. She’s brought to Agent O (Emma Thompson), who’s intrigued by her spunky enthusiasm. Agent M (Tessa Thompson) begins her probationary evaluation as a top secret alien policeman. She’ll have to earn the right to carry a neuralyzer.
Agent M’s first assignment is at the Men in Black London office as an analyst. The UK lead agent (Liam Neeson) is at his wits’ end with a hotshot. Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) has taken his reckless behavior too far. Agent M is critical, but becomes smitten with the handsome and mischievous rogue. Opposites attract as an another world endangering alien menace threatens the core of the Men in Black.
Let’s start with the most entertaining. A chess piece sized CGI character, Pawny (Kumail Nanjiani), provides the majority of laughs. He lobs insults at Agent H throughout the film. These barbs pick up the tempo when the long developing plot stumbles. The character is hilarious, but looks like a cartoon hanging out in Agent M’s pocket. It’s the good alien oddity that every installment has delivered so far. There’s an all too brief appearance from the irascible Pug, Frank (Tim Blaney).
The choice to have Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson as quasi-romantic backfires. Their wooden interaction exacerbates the lack of attraction. Both actors are never comfortable with their characters or each other. The Men in Black series has been largely successful because of the chemistry between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Hemsworth and Thompson look like they’re grasping for air. It’s a puzzling development after previous success as Marvel superheroes. This film is certainly not Thor and Valkyrie fighting an alien menace. That would have been better.
Director F. Gary Gray (The Fate of the Furious, Straight Outta Compton) was too mainstream a choice. He doesn’t have the quirky sensibilities of Barry Sonnenfeld, who helmed the previous Men in Black films. Maybe his approach with Hemsworth and Thompson didn’t play to their strengths together. The romance aspect never gained traction. The result is labored and mostly forgettable with a few big chuckles. Men in Black: International is produced by Columbia Pictures and Amblin Entertainment with distribution by Sony Pictures.
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