Part of the fun of the first “Men in Black” film was simply watching the interaction between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones’ alien investigators, Agent J and Agent K. The two actors had a great “odd couple” chemistry, Will Smith’s high-energy, charismatic Agent J contrasting nicely with Tommy Lee Jones’ blunt, prickly Agent K.
Yet it’s almost even more fun to watch Will Smith interact with a younger version of K in the recently released “Men in Black 3.” Josh Brolin gives a hilarious, and uncannily spot-on performance as the young Agent K, and as one review I read put it, it’s worth the price of admission just to see Brolin channel Tommy Lee Jones.
In “Men in Black 3,” Agent J is forced to travel back in time to “fix” history after “Boris the Animal,” an alien thug with a grudge against Agent K, breaks out of a lunar prison and finds a way to alter the time-space continuum and kill Agent K’s younger self. Agent J time jumps back to 1969 right before the Apollo 11 moon landing, teams up with the young K, and tries to stop Boris the Animal from rewriting history.
The film makers’ idea to add a time travel element to the story breathes new life into the “Men in Black” franchise and offers plenty of opportunities for fun 1960s pop culture references. Bill Hader has a great cameo as the famous pop artist Andy Warhol — who, as it turns out, is actually an undercover alien investigator himself.
Without a doubt, though, it’s Brolin’s performance that carries the film. He nails Tommy Lee Jones’ trademark persona, perfectly capturing Jones’ speech patterns, expressions and personality. He really does look like he could be the young Tommy Lee Jones.
Brolin gives more than just a straight-up impersonation of Jones, however; similar to Ewan McGregor’s work as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the “Star Wars” prequels, taking over from Alec Guinness, Brolin plays a more open and light-hearted version of Agent K, bringing enough originality to the performance to make it interesting. We also learn part of the reason why the older Agent K is so prickly is a certain tragic event that occurs the day of the Apollo 11 launch. It’s an event that will have a dramatic impact on Agent J’s life as well, though he doesn’t realize it until he time-travels back to 1969.
One thing I do wish the film makers would have expanded upon is the relationship between Agent K and Agent O (played by Emma Thompson and Alice Eve, as the older and younger versions of Agent O, respectively). This relationship is hinted at several times, but not really fleshed out, and I would have liked to see this developed more in the film.
Still, “Men in Black 3” is an entertaining, light-hearted film with plenty of fun for “Men in Black” fans.