Of everyone on screen, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones come off best in “Men in Black: International.” Because they’re not actually in the movie.
Oh, the two actors who led the “Men in Black” franchise through three previous films are present, but only in a painting depicting a long-ago scene. And my (black) hat is off to them, because “Men in Black: International,” despite its delightful cast, is a complete snooze. There’s no reason on earth for this movie to exist — it’s too dull to even be considered mindless fun. And if you’re wondering how a movie starring the delightful trio of Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth and Emma Thompson could be so bad … well, I’m wondering, too.
I had a lot of time to wonder; the movie’s nearly two hours long, which is a long time for nothing much to happen. Tessa Thompson plays newly minted Agent M, who’s wanted to be a Man in Black — a secret agent who seeks out and supervises extraterrestrial life-forms — since witnessing an alien encounter as a child. She’s paired with rogue Agent H (Hemsworth), who’s a rogue because he wears striped socks and is handsomely lackadaisical, and off they go investigating alien situations around the globe. Emma Thompson, meanwhile, stands on the sidelines in a smartly fitting suit, looking grateful that no one can figure out what to do with her character, Agent O. (Yes, both Thompsons are Women in Black, but they’re not called that. “I’ve had the conversation,” says Agent O, tartly; it’s yet another indication of this movie’s lameness that we didn’t see it.)
This “Thor: Ragnarok” reunion should have been fun, right? Instead, it’s just murky, never-quite-thrilling action scenes (I saw it in 2D, noting a few obligatory jump-out-of-the-screen bits to justify the 3D upcharge); an equally murky plot involving some evil twin alien life-forms (Laurent and Larry Bourgeois, looking faintly amused); and jokes that don’t land. You feel for the actors, who you know are better than this stuff, and you wonder if director F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”) just threw up his hands. And you wonder if, somewhere, Smith and Jones are chuckling. At least somebody was.
★½ “Men in Black: International,” with Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rebecca Ferguson, Rafe Spall. Directed by F. Gary Gray, from a screenplay by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, based on the comic by Lowell Cunningham. 115 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action, some language and suggestive material. Opens June 13 at multiple theaters.