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Men in Black III **

In what must be a final run at the bank, Men in Black III arrives a decade after the last installment. The first two MiB shows grossed over a billion worldwide, providing rich justification for director Barry Sonnenfeld to reunite with black-suited, high-tech agents K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith). Again the aim is pure diversion, and again the packaging is stylish, though the use of the Chrysler Building doesn’t equal the 1997 film’s display of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum.

The love of New York is palpable. Weird critters are enjoyable. Banter is genially snarky. Jemaine Clement is Boris, a suitably disgusting chief villain. And Smith sighs, “I’m getting too old for this,” which spotlights the obvious. Smith at 43 is buff but now too mature for J’s brash, peppy boyishness. As his surly mentor K, Jones at 65 looks ready for the San Antonio Wax Museum. While still dropping his lines into place with cool gravity, his weary funk makes Kafka’s Joseph K in The Trial seem a cockeyed optimist.

There is 3-D to embellish the action and cameos for Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. As the new agency boss, Emma Thompson is little-used but intones perfectly, “Ladies and gentlemen, other life forms ….” Jones vanishes for the story’s long time-trip to 1969. For that phase, Josh Brolin steps in as K, expertly imitating the Jones drawl but looking more like a rumpled, enlarged Matt Damon. The climax involves the great Apollo 11 launch at “Cape Canaveral,” although the NASA site was called Cape Kennedy from 1963 to 1973.

Read the full movie column here.

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