Men in Black

Friday, August 5 - Saturday, August 6, 2016

“What would be the first question to ask a space alien newly arrived on planet Earth? The dryly clever MEN IN BLACK has a novel answer: ‘Carrying any fruits or vegetables?’ This, you see, is business as usual for the film’s top-secret police and immigration authorities, dapper black-suited types who keep tabs on stray spacelings in the New York area. There are a lot of these visitors. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some tote cartons of Marlboros for the trip back home.

The droll conceit of Barry Sonnenfeld’s hugely elaborate new sci-fi comedy is that this is nothing special or even strange. Perfectly unflappable, never surprised by the stray eye stalk or tentacle, the Men in Black simply go about their world-weary business as if this were The French Connection, which is one of the film’s conscious inspirations, along with the television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. As for another, the matter-of-fact Man in Black named K (Tommy Lee Jones) explains why space creatures sometimes stop here: ‘Did you ever see the movie Casablanca? Same thing, except no Nazis.

…So here come the crazily level-headed K and J (Will Smith, the only man in American movies who can easily address a space alien as ‘Baby’) and their Ray-Bans (which, in one of the film’s sly little flourishes, are actually necessary for banning certain rays). They don’t start out as partners. While K ferrets out a walking alligator type named Mikey somewhere in the desert, a New York undercover cop named James Edwards (Mr. Smith) chases a criminal through city streets. (Mr. Smith’s version of what the N.Y.P.D. stands for is one of his amusing additions to the screenplay by Ed Solomon, a writer of the casually fanciful Bill and Ted films.)

The chase leads spectacularly through the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, filmed not only for its dramatic look but also for its suggestion of spacecraft; late in the story, the World’s Fair grounds in Flushing, Queens, are used to similarly ingenious effect. In any case, it turns out that the man Edwards has chased and caught was a cephlapoid, which means a lot to K. He recruits Edwards for a training program that could admit him to the elite corps run by Zed (Rip Torn). ‘Gentlemen, congratulations,’ Zed says sardonically to the group of potential new talent, mostly military men. ‘You’re everything we’ve come to expect from years of Government training.'” –New York Times

Part of the series Waverly Midnights: Aliens Attack!

  • Country USA
  • Year 1997
  • Director Barry Sonnenfeld

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