Men in Black

Men in Black, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld from the comic book by
Lowell Cunningham, is offered as a justification for weird sort of benign
paranoia. The government, we are asked to believe, really knows all about the
alien presence in our midst (that much is familiar) but they are keeping the
knowledge of it from us for our own good. The universe is such a dangerous place
that we would all go crazy if we knew the full extent of the alien penetration.
“The only way these people get on with
their happy little lives is they do not know about
it,” says the hero, a Federal cop from
the secret INS Division Six (the “Men
in Black” ), who goes by the name of
(Tommy Lee Jones). He helps them to forget with the help of a
little wand-like thing that pops like a flashbulb and makes people forget all
about their alien encounters.

It is an interesting idea and gives rise to some good laughs. Will Smith
plays K’s assistant,
“J” ,
a hip young NYPD cop who joins the Men in Black and is chosen over several more
straight-arrow types from the armed forces. As we might expect, the chief
qualification for protecting the earth from aliens is not a sense of duty or
honor but a way with a wisecrack and the cheap sophistication that our young are
taught by the pop culture to value above all things.
says the sententious Mr. K, is nothing but
“unevolved, undeveloped pond scum
totally convinced of its own
superiority.” This is not, as it may
at first appear, a statement of humility but of arrogance; it is a consolation
for slacker adolescents who want to think that those who really are superior are
no better than themselves in the cosmic scheme of things.

Vincent D’Onofrio plays a farmer
whose body is taken over by a bug-like alien. His poor abused wife is surprised
when it comes back into the house in her
husband’s skin, which is too big for
it, and asks for sugar water, but she still assumes that he is her husband. This
seems to me a missed opportunity, a chance for a futuristic blend of
Metamorphosis and The Return of Martin Guerre in which the
wife would come to prefer as a husband the insectiform alien, once she had got
used to him. But, as is generally the case with this sort of film, the plot is
instead a hackneyed and uninteresting exercise in saving the world from the
bug-people with the help of a sexy morgue attendant called Laurel (Linda
Fiorentino). This goes on for far too long, but if you are less sick than I am
of being saved from ultimate annihilation by wisecracking kids (even Tommy Lee
Jones is a mental teenager here), you might enjoy the one-liners.

Discover more from James Bowman

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Similar Posts