Writes Roger Ebert: There is a moment in "Men in Black" when a grim government official shows a wall chart of "every alien on Earth." We're not too surprised to see some of the faces on display: Sylvester Stallone, Al Roker, Newt Gingrich, Dionne Warwick. (When the movie comes out on video, I'll use freeze frames to capture the rest.) Wicked little side jokes like that are the heart and soul of "Men in Black" (or "MiB," as it is already being called, no doubt in the movie title-as-software tradition of "ID4").
A lot of big-budget special-effects films are a hair this side of self-parody and don't know it. "Men in Black" knows it and glories in it; it's a refreshing Bronx cheer aimed at movies that think $100 million budgets equal solemnity. This is not a film about superheroes, but the adventures of a couple of hard-working functionaries whose assignment is to keep tabs on the sizable alien population of the United States.
Tommy Lee Jones, never more serious, unsmiling and businesslike, stars as K, the veteran agent of Division 6, whose members dress, as William Morris agents used to, in black suits and black ties. The agency is headed by Zed (Rip Torn), who grows alarmed at the latest threat to Earth's sovereignty and assigns K a young assistant code-named J (Will Smith).
Their biggest problem materializes when a flying saucer strikes the truck of a hillbilly named Edgar (Vincent D'Onofrio) and the alien inside occupies his body, none too comfortably. Imagine Orson Welles in a suit of armor and you will have a rough approximation of how easily the Edgar-alien inhabits his skin.
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