Men In Black II (MIIB) had the potential to be just as good as the original. In fact, it should have been better, considering that there are better special effects allowing for more kooky aliens and cooler fight scenes. Not to mention that Will Smith has gotten slightly better comedic timing, and Tommy Lee Jones wears a postal worker uniform. But somehow all of these key elements that could have led to one of those rare better-than-the-original sequels didn’t quite come together.
The blame rests almost solely on MIIB‘s weak story. Granted, the plot of the original wasn’t a masterpiece. In it, an alien bug came to Earth to find a galaxy inside a marble on a cat’s collar. It wasn’t exactly The Count of Monte Cristo, but it was fun. And it was nowhere near as lame as what comes out in MIIB.
MIIB picks up not too long beyond where the first left off. Agent Kay (Jones) has been neuralized, leaving him completely unaware of his past with the Men in Black. After losing a string of replacement partners due to their general ineptitude, amplified by his own trigger-happy neuralizing, Agent Jay (Smith) has yet to find a worthy partner. Meanwhile, across town, a pizza-shop-owning alien is killed by the seductive alien, Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle, in a disappointing performance).
Serleena is looking for the Light of Zarthon, a mysterious little tool that will somehow give her control of a weaker, more peaceful race of aliens. When MIB investigates the murder, they realize that they once again need the help of Agent Kay to save the planet. Apparently, Kay was around when the Light of Zarthon was originally brought to Earth, and he’s the only one who might know where it ended up. Some comedic scenes ensue when Agent Jay finds Kay, or “Kevin” as he is called outside the agency, working in a post office in the middle of nowhere.
While MIB headquarters gets taken hostage by the evil Serleena, Jay and Kay are off following a trail of clues that Kay left himself about where the Light of Zarthon is hidden.
So far this doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Well maybe it does, but this main plot line isn’t the real problem with MIIB. What ruins things is the sappy back story about Agent Kay falling in love with the princess who brought the light to Earth in the first place and how he put Earth in jeopardy by hiding the light for her. Even worse is the much more sappy romance between Jay and Laura (Rosario Dawson), witness to the murder in the pizza parlor. The audience knows Jay is thoroughly enamored when he neglects to neuralize her memory of the event – now that’s love.
There is one last bone to pick with this sequel. And it’s a common problem with sequels that I’d somehow convinced myself wouldn’t wiggle its way into MIIB. There are simply too many things copied from the original. In both movies, an evil alien comes to Earth to find an object that another alien left for safekeeping. Both offer a back story involving Agent Kay losing a lover. And the epilogues of both films offer a sort of world-within-a-world-within-a-world perspective. With the alien marble game at the end of MIB, the effort worked. But it was only cool once.
And that’s a pretty complete assessment of how the second Men in Black installment comes across onscreen – it was only cool once.