This may be about the last movie I ever watched a theater. It came out in 1997, distributed by Columbia Pictures. It stars Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K (Kevin Brown) and Will Smith as New York Police Detective James Darrell Edwards III, later Agent J. It’s Men in Black. I obtained the screen shots from Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia and IMDB.
The trick of the plot is to turn everybody’s assumptions on their head, which purpose it gets to in the first scenes. We see Border Patrol agents (before the days of Homeland Security) stopping a van loaded with migrant laborers fresh from the Mexican border. Before the ICE can get these guys back on a bus to Mexico, a couple of Men in Black arrive on the scene to take charge. Agent K interrogates the illegals and quickly determines that one of them does not speak Spanish. The reason he doesn’t speak Spanish, is because he is not from Mexico. He’s not even from the Solar System. He is an extraterrestrial, which job it is for the Men in Black to manage.
We cut to Detective Edwards attempting to corral a suspect with unearthly physical qualities. The perp is just short of leaping over tall buildings in a single bound. The cop’s efforts are noticed by the Men in Black.
Meanwhile, a farmer named Edgar encounters an alien who has cratered his front yard and also his pickup truck. He stalks immediately to the crater’s edge to confront the intruder. His final words are, “from my cold, dead fingers.” The insect alien takes over Edgar’s skin. When an exterminator comes to the farm to take care of the cockroaches, the alien terminates him, takes his truck, and heads into town to complete his nefarious task, which task I will not detail in this review.
Agent K takes Detective Edwards to a pawn shop to track down the source of the cosmic blaster the perp pulled on Edwards. Edwards thinks this is just your ordinary neighborhood crooked pawn dealer, but Agent K knows better. When the pawn dealer becomes recalcitrant, Agent K blows his head off, which the dealer promptly grows back. He’s one of THEM.
A plan is hatched to induct Detective Edwards into the Men in Black, and he goes through an odd screening process. At the combat simulation range the other candidates blast away at weird creatures from outer space, but Edwards plugs Little Tiffany. She’s the odd character out. Sweet white child, treading the mean streets at night, armed with a book on quantum physics. Obviously a dangerous imposture and a threat.
Only Detective Edwards passes the screening, and he becomes Agent J, one of the Men in Black.
Certain aspects of the job are less than glamorous. Aliens are fleeing the Earth because of the impending threat represented by Edgar’s insect impersonator. Along a highway leaving New York, Agents K and J stop an alien attempting to leave the city. Turns out the big emergency is that the alien’s wife is giving birth, and Agent J assists, ending up holding a bouncing baby alien, who promptly slimes him.
Edgar’s imposture commandeers the city morgue to confiscate an orange cat, which cat wears a miniature universe dangling from his collar. Disposing of the desk clerk, the alien takes the attractive mortician, Dr. Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino) hostage and hides under a gurney when Agent J comes calling. She attempts to signal Agent J that something is wrong and that he should be casting his eyes downward. Of course Agent J thinks this is a come-on and welcomes the opportunity to view her lower extremities.
About the time Agent J gets wise, the alien takes charge and abducts Dr. Weaver, taking her to where he plans to leave in a space ship.
K and J figure out what’s up, and halt the escape. A fight between the Men in Black and the alien ensues, and Dr. Weaver observes the strange goings on. When things get critical she steps in, picks up a cosmic blaster, and saves the day.
Agent K retires, and Dr. Weaver joins the Men in Black as Agent L, becoming maybe the first Woman in Black. And this is funny. They get a new case to handle. “The high consulate from Solaxiant 9 wants floor seats for the next Bulls game.” J recommends they contact Dennis Rodman, since he’s from that planet. L is surprised, but notes, “Not much of a disguise.”
Yes, this is mostly silly, but it still picked an Academy Award for best makeup. The basis of this movie’s comedy is surprise piled on top of absurdity. From start to finish the goal is continually catch the viewer off guard—unexpected developments, stunning outcomes, 180° reversals of social norms. There are sequels, and I’m thinking it has got to be hard to keep surprising viewers. I’m not going to review any of them.
We previously saw Tommy Lee Jones in a review of John Grisham’s The Client. I only recently found out he lives just a few miles from where this is being posted, but paying more in property taxes.