"Men in Black II" starts off promisingly, with a clever concept and the hint of potential. Early in the film, Agent J (Will Smith) continues his alien policing work as one of the head agents in the Men in Black organization, but he's not entirely pleased with the job anymore. That, and he's just neuralized another partner (played by Patrick Warburton). Smith's irritated line readings are amusing and having the character be irritated and sick of his job seemed like it could be fun.
Unfortunately, it's only a matter of time until a plot that feels awfully similar to the prior film clicks in. An alien named Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) has landed on Earth looking for some object that will apparently allow her control of the Earth, or the universe, or something along those lines. Of course, Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) was neuralized in the prior film and he's the only one that can help Jay capture the alien. This requires a visit to the post office, where Kay's now the postmaster.
Of course, it's only a matter of time before both are together once again to give chase. While the jokes in Ed Solomon's screenplay for the original film were witty, original and inventive, Robert Gordon and Barry Fanaro's screenplay for the sequel seems satisfied to either offer uninspired takes on bits from the original or subplots that really don't lead to anything terrific - especially having Jones's character come back after being neuralized in the last film. While the two leads had great chemistry in the first film, neither seems particularly interested this time around. Rosario Dawson plays Smith's love interest, but hardly gets anything to do.
Still, there are elements of the film that impress. Bo Welch's production design is still genius, as are Rick Baker's incredible creature make-up effects. Effects aren't much better in this film, maybe because they're spread out over several effects houses. Danny Elfman's wonderful score adds atmosphere and feel where neither would exist otherwise.
Overall, "MIB2" has its moments early on in the picture, but it settles into easy formula for the remainder. While this wasn't a particularly necessary sequel, more work could certainly have been done to make it feel less of a repeat.
VIDEO: "Men in Black II" is presented by Columbia/Tristar Home Video in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a superb transfer that, while not quite flawless, still offered a really first-rate viewing experience. Sharpness and detail remained marvelous throughout, with no noticable instances of softness and occasional instances of impressive definition.
There were a few minor flaws throughout this presentation, but they will likely go unnoticed by most viewers. Only a light amount of edge enhancement was briefly present, as were a few traces of pixelation. Print flaws were also not an issue aside from a few little specks. The film's vibrant color palette was beautifully rendered here, appearing well-saturated and crisp, with no smearing or other faults. Black level was solid as well, while flesh tones looked accurate.
SOUND: "Men in Black" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (no DTS, unfortunately). Still, this is a perfectly fine presentation that, while not demo material, will likely prove enjoyable for many. Danny Elfman's wonderful score is presented with enjoyable clarity and depth, not to mention nice reinforcement from the surrounds. The rear speakers also kick in for sound effects on several sequences, but there's also quite a few stretches of this film where there's really nothing very significant going on the rear speakers. Audio quality was superb, though: dialogue remained clear, music sounded warm and effects sounded crisp and detailed.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Barry Sonnenfeld, who has provided quite a few commentaries in the past. While the director does have the annoying habit of occasionally simply discussing what's currently going on in the film, his dry sense of humor (joking about trying to get ILM to add more hair on his head during his cameo appearance later in the film) and knowledge of the technical aspects of the production (he discusses all the effects, production design and editing details) make for a track that's entertaining and informative far more often than not. Sonnenfeld has a telestrator once again here, so - if the option is turned on - viewers see the director illustrating things on-screen, "Monday Night Football"-style.
Frank's Favorites: This section includes "The Chubb Chubbs", the computer-animated short that played before "MIB2" in theaters last summer. It's quite hilarious and well-worth viewing. Also in this section are teaser and theatrical trailers for "MIB2", along with trailers for "Spider-Man", "Ghostbusters" and "The Mask of Zorro".
Alien Encounters: This is another feature where the viewer must click upon a logo to bring up a related featurette. These featurettes are fairly enjoyable, offering a nice jump into the production to see how some of the scenes were accomplished.
Special Delivery: MIB Orb: This is a pretty enjoyable section, offering 9 featurettes, but in a way that's slightly different from the usual. In this area, viewers get the ability to choose which order they want to view the featurettes in. These pieces cover many different topics, from Rick Baker's creature make-up effects to the visual FX to the ADR to the characters. While some of these aren't quite as interesting, the ADR featurette (which shows members of the cast having fun trying to think up new lines or alternate takes) and the Rick Baker featurette are the highlights.
Scene Deconstructions: This section offers the ability to use the angle button on the remote to check out different stages of five scenes from the film. Admittedly, this is one of my favorite kinds of DVD supplements and the clips offered here are no less neat to watch, as they take the viewer through the production process.
Serleena Animatic: This short clip provides a rough version of this scene through a mix of basic computer animation and storyboards.
Blooper Reel: A 5-minute mixture of laughs and forgotten lines. Not one of the funniest blooper reels I've ever seen, but it has its moments.
Alternate Ending: This is a short additional sequence that would have followed the end of the final version of the picture. It's a funny sequence and it provides a more satisfactory ending than the current one.
Creature Featurettes: This section provides several short featurettes on the development of some of the creatures in the picture. Also in this section is a bonus featurette, "Barry Sonnenfeld's Intergalatic Guide To Comedy", which provides a few minutes of joking around about how director Barry Sonnenfeld's dry comedy style works. At one point in this featurette, Sonnenfeld says, "what's really fresh about directing a sequel to "Men In Black" is that this time, they're paying me lots of money."
Also: Filmographies, theatrical one-sheet posters, Will Smith music video and DVD-ROM features, including an interactive game, screensaver, web-links and more.
Final Thoughts: At just under 90 minutes, "Men in Black II" passes by quickly, but remains mostly forgettable. Columbia/Tristar have offered a very nice DVD of the film though, boasting very good audio/video quality and plenty of supplements. Fans of the film should seek a purchase, but those who haven't seen it and are interested should certainly try a rental first.