Men In Black II Barry Sonnenfeld

Men In Black II Barry Sonnenfeld
In an industry that's all about safe investments, the "Men In Black" franchise seems like one of few sure things. Remember when Will Smith was "Mr. July Fourth Weekend"? That was before Barry Sonnenfeld directed the hell out of "Wild Wild West." Finally getting all the ducks – meaning the financial details for stars Smith and Tommy Lee Jones – in a row for a big splashy sequel, Sonnenfeld wasn't about to blow it, and thus plays this franchise instalment about as safe as you can get.

Everything is familiar as this episode begins: Will Smith in the trademark suit; the witty one-liner bad-guy battles; "neurolising" everyone's memories all to hell; even the dude at the entrance of MIB headquarters hasn't moved in intervening five years. But playing to fans to whom this is already familiar territory, what Sonnenfeld and co. have done is just speed up the proceedings like a hot lunch was waiting for them on set. Geez, it's like George Lucas is directing: "faster, more intense."

That everything whips by at hyper-speed doesn't matter any more – the visual candy and otherworldly surprises that made the first one such a delight are treated as old hat here. Requisite hottie/baddie Lara Flynn Boyle barely manages to muster up anything resembling evil; the lingerie-model façade just makes her seem petulant, and she's much scarier in a power suit on "The Practice." Jackass Johnny Knoxville as her two-headed toadie is good but underused, while the love interest between sweet/hot Rosario Dawson and Smith is predictably pat (as is the dismissal of Linda Fiorentino, who might have added some much needed snark to the proceedings).

In the end, "MIBII" races to its conclusion like it's got to get to a bank to cash a cheque – it barely adds up to 80 minutes, minus credits. It's sure to cha-ching with anyone desperate enough to seek air-conditioned reprieve – especially since it's the only new offering this holiday weekend – and with "Spider-Man" and "Clones" already out of the way it looks like there will be little competition (except maybe Austin Powers) for the rest of the summer. You realise of course, if you keep accepting these types of efforts as good enough, studios will just keep making them.