MEN IN BLACK 2 – DVD review

The first teaming of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith as the “Men In Black” was a joyous experience that sent me to the theaters three times. It was a movie that I greatly enjoyed. Jones was the perfect straightjacket Secret Agent and Will Smith was the perfect opposite that found the best “Odd Couple” pairing since Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon brought the term to everyday life. My anticipation of a sequel was high, but disappointment set in when it was said that bringing director Barry Sonnenfeld and the film’s two stars back for a second helping would be unfeasible. Eventually, the three men would sign the contracts to greenlight a sequel and after five years, “Men In Black II” would storm multiplexes with a massive $140 million budget. Of course, I was in line for opening night and couldn’t wait to see what mayhem the repairing of Jones and Smith would create.

“MIB II” finds Jones character, Agent K, retired and enjoying life as a Postal Worker in a small Midwestern town. Agent J (Smith) is going through partners like there is no tomorrow. He has become the BIG MIB and lets his new partners know it. His ego overshadows his talent. One day, an evil world-destroying being simply known as Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) comes to town and the only way she can be stopped is by restoring K’s memory and discovering the secret to saving the world. This will be no easy task, as restoring memory after using the infamous memory erasing neuralizer requires a piece of machinery that becomes unusable. J also tries to keep his status as the top agent, while K slowly learns that he is the big man of the agency and all new tension and comedy ensues as the two once again struggle for control off the car keys.

The second MIB film is an entertaining film, but it lacks the originality and sheer excitement of the first outing. You see the problem is that almost everything seen in the second film has already been done in one way or another in the first adventure. Practically every joke is a rehash of something seen in the first movie. This was VERY disappointing. The mix of Jones and Smith is the saving grace of the movie and keeps it in the above average category. There are a few very humorous moments in this second film and admittedly a few original jokes, but when the credits roll after this incredibly short movie, you feel as if you’ve already seen the film. In all honesty, with a little more time and thought, “Men In Black II” could have been just as great a film as the first one. I just hope that if they decide to deliver a third installment in the series that they get some new writing talent and try a few more jokes.

Video : 
Columbia TriStar presents “Men In Black II” in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is indeed anamorphic widescreen. I have come to expect certain things in Columbia TriStar’s transfers. First and foremost, I expect the quality to be among the best. I have also come to expect a certain level of edge enhancement halos. Generally, “Men In Black II” sticks to my standard level of expectations. Detail is incredibly good, as is color saturation and the clean source materials used. Black level is exceptional and shows off the black suits rather nicely. The edge enhancement halos are held to a minimum. The digital transfer is good. No artificing, pixelation or other annoying anomalies can be found. Columbia TriStar can usually be relied on for a good-looking disc and “Men In Black II” is no exception to that. A separate Full Screen version is also available.

Audio : 
Audio for “Men In Black II” is delivered with only a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. The DTS track that was available for the first film is nowhere to be found. This reviewer would tend to think that a SuperBit release with DTS intact is around the corner. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is exceptional and it is LOUD. The .1 LFE channel gets more work than normal during this film and quickly reminds one that Will Smith once delivered the bass as the Fresh Prince. Dialogue is exceptionally clean. All five main channels are utilized nicely. There are plenty of great atmospheric effects to inhabit the rear surrounds and every channel is active through the film. As a Danny Elfman fan, I was also quite pleased with the handling of his wonderful score throughout the film. Some of our Canadian neighbors will be pleased to find a good French 5.1 language track contained on the DVD as well. Tommy Lee Jone’s character is funny in French.

Extras : 
More and more, the big releases are two-disc sets where the first disc is the film and any commentary tracks and the second disc contains the supplemental footage. “Men In Black II” is no exception to this trend. The first disc contains some trailers and a singular commentary track. The second-disc contains a number of supplements entertaining and informative bonuses that will take a bit of time to get through.

DVD number one contains the Director’s Commentary with Optional Telestrator Diagrams Director Barry Sonnenfeld delivered a great commentary on the first DVD, and his work here is just as good. He is an entertaining fellow that manages to inform and delight through the entire track and never lets up for a minute. Sonnenfeld discusses the talent behind the characters and gives nice tidbits about the actual making of the film. The optional telestrator uses a subtitle track to draw some circles and other marks to point out what he is discussing. First Madden, now DVD! It is a nice feature, and if you are watching the film for the purpose of the commentary track, I certainly recommend you also activate this feature. The Alien Broadcastfeature works much like similar features on “Tomorrow Never Dies” and “The Matrix.” A little icon appears on the screen and you press ENTER on your remote and watch a short featurette on the making of the film. A series of Theatrical Trailers entitled “Frank’s Favorites” for different Columbia TriStar films and a Special Animated Short Film that runs for five minutes and is worth a look finish off the first disc offerings.

The second DVD contains the bulk of the supplemental offerings and the most notable and first entry is entitled MIB Orb. This nifty extra is a collection of nine featurettes on different aspects of the making of the film. The featurettes are aptly named “MIB ADR,” “Design In Motion,” “Rick Baker: Alien Maker,” “Serleena,” “Jeff,” “Frank the Pug,” “Squish, Splat, Sploosh: The Stellar Sounds of MIB II,” “Cosmic Symphonies: Danny Elfman In Space” and “Alien Esoterica.” The features can be played individually, or all at once.

After the “MIB Orb” section, there are a number of smaller supplements to gander through. The Blooper Real is a very good one and runs for about five minutes. Any time you have the talent collected for this film, there had better be a good blooper real and it doesn’t disappoint. The Serleena Animatic Sequence shows the developmental stages of the films opening sequence. It is rough and I really didn’t like the opening sequence, but this was a good quick watch. Multi-Angle Scene Deconstructionsshows a handful of scenes through the various stages of development. “Opening Sequence: Alternate Version,” “Jay and Jeff,” “The Car Chase” and “The Jarra Fight Scene” are broken down and with the remote you can take an in-depth look at the making of these scenes. I’ve always enjoyed this type of feature and this one is no exception. A rough and unfinished Alternate Ending is also included. Barry Sonnenfeld’s Intergalactic Guide To Comedy runs for six minutes and simply features the director giving his thoughts on comedy. Interesting, but not as good as the title suggests. Creature Featurettes shows seven different aliens and their creation. A Will Smith Music Video, Theatrical One-Sheets, and Filmographies complete the value added content of the second DVD.

Summary : 
“Men In Black II” was a funny film, but it came across as a quick rehash of the original. At least, when it came to the jokes and the situations our characters found themselves in. The re-teaming of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones had so much potential, it seems a shame that it wasn’t utilized better. I’m hoping for a third film and also hoping that a fresh batch of jokes and situations will make for a better outing than what this offered. Fortunately, Columbia TriStar has created a very nice DVD to supplement any shortcomings the film had. It wasn’t a bad film, but this just goes to show how much a good DVD can determine whether or not a film is worth purchasing. In this case, I suggest that if you liked the original, you should invest in this disc as well.

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