One day Agent J (Smith) wakes up to find that his partner Agent K (Jones) has been dead for more than 40 years. It turns out that evil alien Boris (Clement) has travelled back to 1969 to stop K from capturing him so he can conquer Earth. So J has little choice but to follow him. First, he must convince new boss O (Thompson) to let him go, and then he has to explain everything to the younger K (Brolin) and work with another alien (Stuhlbarg) who can see multiple futures.
Sonnenfeld recaptures the atmosphere with striking sets, witty camerawork and Danny Elfman's iconic score. But Smith and Jones' chemistry in the early scenes feels oddly strained, as if they can't quite remember that snappy rhythm but are carrying on out of loyalty. Everything about the film feels similarly softer around the edges. There are some hilarious moments and sublimely silly asides, but the film never shifts into full-speed.
This is partly because the plot is deeply convoluted: there's a lot happening, but none of it gains traction. To keep us intrigued, screenwriter Cohen withholds key details far too long while setting up each plot point in painfully obvious ways. With each scene in the first act, there's something presented that we know will pay off later. So there aren't really any surprises, besides a couple of startlingly emotional sequences at the end.
As a result, the rushed climax isn't terribly suspenseful. Still, the cast keeps us smiling. While there isn't enough of Thompson (or Eve as the younger O), Brolin is wonderful as the young K, channelling Jones' mannerisms with a smart twist. And Stuhlbarg's nutty role is a lot of fun as well. In the end, the actors, the visual design and effects keep our eyes happy (even with the utterly pointless 3D). We get our money's worth. But nothing more.
Run time: 106 mins
In Theaters: Friday 25th May 2012
Box Office USA: $179.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $624M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Production compaines: Amblin Entertainment, Hemisphere Media Capital, Imagenation Abu Dhabi FZ, Media Magik Entertainment, Parkes/MacDonald Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Fresh: 158 Rotten: 69
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Producer: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes
Screenwriter: Etan Cohen
Starring: Will Smith as Agent J, Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K, Josh Brolin as Young Agent K, Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin, Emma Thompson as Agent O, Jemaine Clement as Boris The Animal, Nicole Scherzinger as Boris's Girlfriend, Alice Eve as Young Agent O, Bill Hader as Andy Warhol, Michael Chernus as Jeffrey Price, David Rasche as Agent X, Keone Young as Mr. Wu, Cayen Martin as Colonel's Son, Mike Colter as Colonel
Also starring: Laurie MacDonald