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‘Men in Black: International’ is mildly entertaining and utterly forgettable

Like a summer beach read, Men in Black: International is lightweight, lazy, mildly entertaining, and utterly inconsequential. The function of a beach read is to allow us to pass the time while we’re doing other more important things, like relaxing or getting a tan. The less brain activity the better. And that’s pretty much what the new MIB offers as well.

Actress Emma Thompson, as the top dog in Men In Black, inadvertently blurts out the truth behind this fourth franchise offering when she describes their spy operation this way:

“We are a rumor, recognizable only as deja vu, and dismissed just as quickly.”

A rumor of a story recognizable only as deja vu and dismissed just as quickly. I couldn’t put it any better, or more “quickly.” It’s a tired formula whose only appeal is a nostalgia for the earlier, fresher first film in the franchise.

So, yes, per expectations, there are a gaggle of wacky new aliens everywhere we turn, and all the agents come dressed in white shirts and black suits and sport shiny new weapons of infinite capabilities.

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And of course, the neuralyzer makes repeated appearances (For the uninitiated, it’s a device the size of a pen, issued to all Men in Black agents, that erases the memory of whomever it’s pointed at). It won’t be needed by anyone who sees this movie because the film disappears from memory all on its own.

Original agents Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are, of course, long gone, and in their place we have Chris Hemsworth as Agent H, and Tessa Thompson, as Agent M. Hemsworth plays — wait for it — a charming cad of an agent – and Thompson plays an earnest rookie working alongside him.

Hemsworth seems to be Hollywood’s go-to hunky guy these days, armed as he is with little more than his blond locks and quick quips. More of a surprise is how comfortably Thompson carries her own with megastars like Hemsworth, Emma Thompson, and Liam Neeson, who plays another one of her bosses.

As an actress, she’s equally adept at edgy independent films like Dear White People and Sorry To Bother You, and franchise blockbusters like The Avengers and MIB. She plays the rookie agent with a deft comic touch, befitting the lighter-than-air plot and nicely underplays a simmering crush she’s developing for her partner.

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The plot is irrelevant — something about aliens threatening the universe, if only they could get their hands on a spiky purple object that fits in the palm of their hand. It’s all intentionally silly, standard Men in Black storyline fare.

This fourth version does invent a new sidekick who goes by the name Pawny, and is voiced by Kumail Nanjiani. He’s apparently the last surviving chess piece from some kind of game store slaughter. And since a pawn’s only role is to serve a queen and his queen is dead, he adopts Agent M as his new queen.

Hence, he journeys with her wherever she goes, making funny and sometimes snide cracks along the way (Can you say “spin-off”?). In other words, Pawny provides some much needed comic relief, just not nearly enough to lift this film into the truly enjoyable stratosphere.

As a moderately diverting time-waster, MIB:International works just fine. Just don’t expect much of a tan.

Listen to the Tom and Curley Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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