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DVD Review: Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black II on Sony Home Entertainment

Serious film-lovers may need to take a shower afterward but this meaty DVD edition of Men in Black II will keep fans happily occupied.


Kylothian alien high priestess Serleena is tearing up the universe on “her” quest to find the light of Zartha, warming up to Lara Flynn Boyle’s body as strewn across the pages of a fashion magazine. Surprisingly, there’s not so much as one feminist icky spot to be found anywhere on Boyle’s alien-cum-harlot number. Screenwriters Bobby Fanaro and Robert Gordon seem to have taken the poly-armed Serleena’s model transformation a tad too literally in that the new and improved Sereleena has zero personality. Just as empty are Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones), back for more gooey battles with wily aliens and worm creatures. Sure, the film’s many wiggling aliens and flashy gizmos should sedate most rambunctious toddlers but why does the soulless Men in Black II feel as if it were written for that dork that somehow got past the bouncer at your favorite club? MIB II supports the theory that “Who Let The Dogs Out?” can indeed be incorporated into a successful joke. In this case, though, it’s less the reference to the song that’s effective than the timing of the CGI dog’s bark. But let’s get back to the guy who actually dodged the bouncer. He’s the guy at the party who’s perpetually living five-minutes ago, referencing “Who Let The Dogs Out?” and finding clever ways of redefining the cheesy pick-up line (for him, “Once you go black, you’ll never go back” might become something like, say, “Once you go worm, you’ll go yearn”). MIB II is so aware of itself as vaudeville spectacle that a pre-credit encore is inevitable. If there’s any surprise here it’s that said encore is not a blooper reel but a cutesy, existential sequence that toys with the enslavement of the human race. The material is as dated as Smith’s rhymes, from the black-man-in-a-taxicab jive to the celebrity cameos. Note to Sony: we already knew that Michael Jackson was an alien. Furthermore, now that ImClone has brought Martha Stewart back to planet Earth, her superhuman tricks don’t feel quite so superhuman anymore.


Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment will make Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black II available in separate Widescreen and Full Screen Special Editions. Picture and image quality on these DVD editions of the film is near perfect-blacks are solid and colors are incredibly solid. The level of contrast is as admirable as the expansive surrounds and wide dynamic range.


The best thing that can be said about this two-disc DVD edition of Men in Black II is that its interactive menus may rival those of Buena Vista’s Monsters, Inc. DVD-indeed, you may have more fun navigating through the disc’s many features than you will watching the actual film. The first disc allows you to view the film with up-to-the minute transactions from the Alien Broadcast Network. When you click on the icons that flash on the screen throughout the movie, cast and crew divulge behind-the-scenes info. Though this footage has been obviously culled from the various featurettes found on the second disc, the effect is less than redundant because alternate takes have been used. Also included on the first disc is the film’s teaser trailer, its theatrical trailer, plugs for the Men in Black: Crossfire game and teasers for the Men in Black Deluxe Edition, Spider-Man, Ghostbusters and Mask of Zorro DVDs. There’s also a director’s commentary track by Mr. Sonnenfeld. If the pitch of his voice and the utter banality of the track aren’t enough to send you running for the bathroom, enjoy the man’s easy amusement and frightening ability to point out the obvious. Folks, in case you didn’t know: that actually wasn’t a 600-foot worm popping out of the film’s sewer system.

The second disc features a MIIB Orb section that contains nine mini-featurettes. All are more or less interesting to watch while none feel especially derivative of the others. Topics covered include the film’s ADR and foley work, Rick Baker’s alien creations and Danny Elfman’s cosmic symphonies. The alternate ending available here was wisely done away with in that it’s significantly worse than the existing one. Also included here are multi-angle scene deconstructions, a collection of theatrical one sheets, filmographies, creature features, a Serleena Animatica sequence, a humorless blooper reel and Will Smith’s video “Black Suits Comin’ (Nod Ya Head),” directed by Francis Lawrence. My favorite feature is Barry Sonnenfeld’s Intergalactic Guide to Comedy, where cast and crew openly divulge the director’s unfortunate approach to the art of laughter. “There are four rules of Barry Sonnenfeld comedy: shoot it low and wide and the actors need to talk fast and flat,” says one friend, putting things in blunt perspective.


Serious film-lovers may need to take a shower afterward but this meaty DVD edition of Men in Black II will keep fans happily occupied.

Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Rip Torn, Rosario Dawson, Patrick Warburton, Lara Flynn Boyle Paige Brooks, David Cross, Darrell Foster, Jeremy Howard, Linda Kim, Tony Shalhoub, Johnny Knoxville Director: Barry Sonnenfeld Screenwriter: Bobby Fanaro, Robert Gordon Distributor: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment Running Time: 88 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2002 Release Date: November 26, 2002 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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