[su_dropcap]I[/su_dropcap]’ll freely admit that I’m prone to moments of mild confusion. After all, it was only a few days ago I tried to exit my hotel room through the closet door. (“Man, who’s hanging all these wrinkled clothes in the hallway??”) With that mental incompetence in mind, I’m not exactly sure how to label Men in Black: International. Is it a spin-off? A reboot? A sequel? I’m just gonna bundle those words and call it a “reek-quel.” That’s my new word, but y’all feel free to use it. Anyway, I guess it really doesn’t matter how you label it, because this MIB is creaky raft that slowly fills with lame sitcom jokes and boring CGI battles. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson spend their screen time paddling for dear life, but to no avail. By the credits, this movie has securely plopped to the bottom.
MIB: International has, at best, a loose connection to the original cinematic trilogy. It was established in the first film that the Men in Black are everywhere and nowhere, so I guess it makes sense for them to have a presence all over the world. Most of the events of this story take place in Europe and Morocco, where another battle for galactic superiority is about to break loose. Molly (Tessa Thompson) has been obsessed with finding the MIB since she experienced a close encounter and didn’t get her memory wiped. She hacks and tracks her way to the Agency’s New York branch, where icy Agent O (Emma Thompson) reluctantly agrees to give her a prohibitive spot on the team. Molly, now Agent M, gets dispatched to London to investigate some internal shenanigans with the office there. She teams with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and quickly unravels a plot to steal a weapon of mass destruction that could risk the entire planet. Or something like that.
If you’ve followed the previous movies, no doubt this plot feels very familiar. It has much of the same flavor, just with different actors and accents. What’s missing is the freshness and invention that made the very first installment so irresistibly fun. This just seems like treading the same well-trodden ground. After a while, the movie honestly grows downright dull.
How dull was it, you ask? Well, I had plenty of time to think about how likely the MIB tactics would fail in real life. Molly’s scenario wouldn’t be an isolated incident, and there’d probably be thousands of people who hadn’t been properly memory-wiped. Eventually, the Men and Women in Black would no longer be a rumor, nor could they be dismissed just as easily. In the 90s, maybe they could’ve pulled it off. But nowadays? Two gorgeous people like Hemsworth and Thompson, strutting around in well-tailored suits and driving a souped-up concept car would pop on Instagram stories everywhere they went. I know a movie like this requires a massive suspension of disbelief, but I think the MIB would be a well-known phenomenon by this point in history.
I wanted to like this movie. Chris Hemsworth is a rare leading man who can strike the balance between hunky looks and deceptively-tricky comic timing. Anyone who watched him in Thor: Ragnarok knows the dude can land a joke. And Thompson can be likable, relatable, and smart all at once. They just don’t have a damn thing to work with. The first Men in Black had big action scenes and CGI sight gags, but it also borrowed a dash of Tim Burton’s endearing quirkiness. (It also stole composer Danny Elfman, for good measure.) From now on, I’m calling lame sequels and boring spin-offs “reekquels.” I’ll patent that word to bring in some extra cash. Just send the royalty checks to my hotel closet.
114 min. PG-13.