“MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL” — 2½ stars — Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, voices of Kumail Nanjiani, Kayvan Novak; PG-13 (sci-fi action, some language and suggestive material); in general release; running time: 114 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — “Men in Black: International” is reminiscent of the last couple of years of the old “X-Files” TV series once the leads had worked their way off the show and the folks in charge had to bring in new characters to replace them. Although a far cry from Mulder and Scully, Robert Patrick’s John Doggett and Annabeth Gish’s Monica Reyes were perfectly good characters and their episodes are stronger than you might remember, but the series just felt past its expiration date by the time they came on the scene.
“Men In Black: International” might leave you feeling the same way.
F. Gary Gray’s “International” reboots the 20-year-old “Men in Black” franchise with a new pair of clandestine agents to guard the Earth against alien invasion and succeed the characters Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones made famous.
Agent M (Tessa Thompson) is a probationary rookie who spent most of her life hunting down the MIB after encountering an alien as a child. After proving herself to Agent O (Emma Thompson) in New York, M gets reassigned to London, where the senior agent senses help is needed.
Across the pond, Chris Hemsworth plays Agent H, a veteran operative who learned under the hand of British division boss Agent High T (Liam Neeson). In spite of Agent H's decorated past, rumor is he's lost a step, and his devil-may-care attitude seems to be losing its charm.
M and H get assigned to chaperone an alien playboy named Vungus (voiced by Kayvan Novak), who is being hunted by a pair of intergalactic assassins connected to a group called The Hive. When the operation goes south, Vungus gives M a secret weapon and a dire warning: Something is fishy inside the Men in Black organization.
What follows is part whodunit, part sci-fi action and part buddy cop comedy as M and H work to stop The Hive and figure out what’s going on at the MIB. The adventure leads the duo around the world to locations like Marrakech, Morocco, and Paris as they deal with internal friction from suspicious agents like Agent C (Rafe Spall) and unseemly characters like notorious arms dealer Riza (Rebecca Ferguson).
“International” gets off to a good start, and the combination of M’s unique back story and the return to the quirky world of the MIB is fun and familiar (the running gag about weird celebrities being aliens in disguise continues intact). It’s also nice to see Tessa Thompson and Hemsworth team up again on the heels of Marvel’s “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Avengers: Endgame.”
But after a while, the novelty wears off and “International” eventually feels like more of a routine episode than a rebirth, even dragging in places, and Gray just doesn’t have much of anything new to bring to the table.
The result isn’t bad, but more of a “good” — with a lower-case “g” — and a shrug. The wit is there, the effects are fun and a new character named Pawny (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) has some good moments, too. But even though the parts are in place, somehow the energy and chemistry is lacking. It might be nice to give the new team one more movie to get up to speed … or it may be time to acknowledge that “Men in Black” was one really fun movie with a bunch of inferior sequels.
Rating explained: “Men in Black: International” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and alien gore, as well as some profanity and mild sexual content.