Review: Audiences will dig time-traveling 'Men in Black 3'

Jemaine Clement, right, and Nicole Scherzinger star in "Men in Black 3."

Photo by WILSON WEBB, © 2012 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All rights reserved.

Jemaine Clement, right, and Nicole Scherzinger star in "Men in Black 3."

Agents J and K are back in time. J has seen some inexplicable things in his 15 years with the Men in Black, but nothing, ...

Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content

Length: 106 minutes

Released: May 25, 2012 Nationwide

Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Writer: Etan Cohen, Lowell Cunningham

More info and showtimes »

Light and breezy, "Men In Black 3" is a textbook case in how to achieve the proper balance for a summertime blockbuster.

It hits all the right notes for mass appeal's sake. Funny-looking aliens. Futuristic gadgets. Cool cars. A simple, streamlined plot. Time travel.

Then, of course, there's Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, as agents J and K, respectively.

What's not to love? This is the kind of movie popcorn and soda were made for.

As escapist fare goes, far worse has come along than "Men 3." This is a fine way to cut loose and drift away for a couple of hours.

All this shouldn't diminish that director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen know how to assemble the pieces, stitch them together and make "Men 3" a no fuss, no muss proposition.

Sounds easy enough, right? It should be. But remember Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes" or "Superman III"? Hollywood's movie graveyard is filled with sequels that should be no-brainers but, instead, went astray.

In this go-round, murderous alien Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) sets out to get revenge on Agent K, who cut off the creature's arm during a battle in 1969. Boris goes back in time to extract his pound of flesh but not without Agent J in hot pursuit.

Josh Brolin, left, and Alice Eve in "Men in Black 3."

Photo by Wilson Webb

Josh Brolin, left, and Alice Eve in "Men in Black 3."

Back in the mod era, Agent J comes across the Agent K of that time period (played by Josh Brolin in a finely tuned mockery of Jones, right down to his stance and walking style). Even 40 years earlier, Agent K is still pretty much the same guy who listens to cowboy music and eats pie to mull over his woes just as he does today. Agent K is a colorless and flaccid character.

The 1969 Agent K does manage a small bit of a smile and a semblance of loosening up.

"What happened to you?" Agent J asks, trying to figure out how the 2012 Agent K could be so rigid and humorless.

"I don't know," the 1969 version says. "It hasn't happened yet."

"Men 3" is blessed to be as charming as the original and a far superior outing than the second movie.

Most of all, it's a crowd pleaser that doesn't pander too hard.

Fifteen years after the original "Men" premiered and 10 years since "Men 2," the franchise is surprisingly time tested, pardon the pun. Older children will delight in the visuals and the schoolyard mentality of the jokes.

Adults will get caught up in the recollections of the fun of discovering "Men" from so many years ago.

Whatever the magic that "Men" movies are able to conjure in the broad picture, it maintains once again in this third installment.

It doesn't hurt that the movie is in 3-D, too, enhancing the charm though so much of the film doesn't really need the technology to keep audiences engaged.

While "Men 3" is a valiant effort from a major studio to satisfy summer audiences, it's not a perfect movie.

At 43, Smith, who wasn't even 30 when he first donned the MIB black suit and skinny tie, musters his jive-talking swagger once more, a dated schtick with neo-racist subtext.

Jones, who is morphing into an odd-looking creature himself, doesn't have to reach far to summon his crotchety old Agent K. At this point, Agent K is clearly a sadder character more than a grand comic foil.

Those imperfections will not matter to the masses. "Men 3" is about having a grand old time, almost literally.

And that it delivers graciously.

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