Will Smith’s first film in four years, Men In Black 3, sees him tackle time travel – he goes back to a time when his stardom was not quite assured and he had to take second billing to Tommy Lee Jones.

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Normally returning to a role you hadn’t played in a decade would reek of desperation or laziness but, watching MiB 3, you can believe that they really have just been waiting for someone to come up with an idea worth doing.

Enticing

The original film set itself up as an enticing mix of Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice and Twin Peaks and then went nowhere much with it, while the sequel was just a lazy retread. So there is a sense that this is a property whose value hasn’t been fully realised yet.

The plot has Agent J (Smith) travelling back to 1969 to stop the young version of his partner K (Josh Brolin) being assassinated. It doesn’t sound very interesting and, initially, it isn’t.

The film gets its disappointment in early with the killing off of Rip Torn’s character to be replaced by Emma Thompson. It’s not quite as heart-rending as the moment when Desmond Llewelyn departs the Bond films to be replaced as Q by John Cleese, but it contributes to a sluggish opening section.

Amid the jokes about him being 110, Jones really does look like he’s too old for all this and the film only begins to spark into life when it flips back to the 1960s and Brolin takes over the role. Brolin is just as perfect as the young TLJ as you knew he would be.

The film has a lot of fun with the period detail but the main reason it takes off is the introduction of a new character Griffin (Michael Stulhbarg), a multi-dimensional being with access to all possible alternative futures who is like something from a modern Doctor Who episode. He gives it a sense of wonder and originality and the last hour glides past delightfully.

For a blockbuster sequel, it is very relaxed and casual. It isn’t packed to bursting with every move feeling like it has been meticulously demographically researched.

MEN IN BLACK 3 (PG)

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Starring: Will Smith, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Tony Stuhlbarg, Alice Eve, Jemaine Clement and Emma Thompson

Length: 106 mins

***

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