No neuralizers needed for Men In Black: International — you’ll forget you’ve seen it not long after walking out.
That’s assuming folks are even going to be walking in. Demand for a reboot of the musty 1990s franchise is questionable, even with stars imported from the economically infallible Marvel Cinematic Universe — Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, who were so much fun paired together in Thor: Ragnarok.
They don’t generate the same sparks here as agents for the covert Men In Black organization, which monitors the space aliens living peacefully and secretly on Earth, while protecting the planet from the incursions of more-threatening intergalactic species.
Hemsworth plays H, a hotshot agent who’s become a bit of a loose cannon and playboy, coasting on reputation and his close friendship with the agency’s London boss (Liam Neeson).
Thompson is M, a resourceful and logical young woman who witnesses an alien as a child, deduces that an agency such Men In Black must exist, and becomes the first person in history to join the organization by talking her way in.
She’s on probationary status when she’s paired with H and assigned to guard a visiting alien, all leading to a complex plot about a dangerous weapon of unprecedented power that threatens a shaky intergalactic peace, and puts Earth in danger.
Thompson and Hemsworth shoot lasers, ride around on a jet-powered motorcycle, and generally try to find some romantic chemistry to replace the veteran/rookie vibe that Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith so memorably brought to the original.
It’s not happening, though, and it’s worth noting that it’s not until a third character — a little CGI mascot voiced by Kumail Nanjiani and devoted to M — enters the picture that the action comedy finds sturdier footing.
Even so, it continues to have a hard time deciding what kind of movie it wants to be, and what kind of audience it wants to please. The movie is PG-13, but relies awkwardly on sexual innuendo. Hemsworth’s pseudo-Bond agent has a checkered history of ingratiating himself with female aliens by sleeping with them. Even those who are not particularly humanoid — one scene has him extricating himself from bed by pulling a creature’s octopus-suckered arm off of his chest.
Rebecca Ferguson plays one of his conquests, a woman with four arms, and she’s also an arms dealer, which is the movie’s idea of a howler.
Men in Black: International. Directed by F. Gary Gray. With Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Rafe Spall, and Kumail Nanjiani. Distributed by Columbia Pictures.
Parents’ guide: PG-13 (action)
Running time: 2 hours