PLOT A new member of a UFO-monitoring agency embarks on her first mission.
CAST Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth
RATED PG-13 (some scary imagery)
BOTTOM LINE A bright and breezy spin-off with two appealing stars.
Everyone’s favorite gizmo from the “Men in Black” movies is the small penlight known as the Neuralizer. Flash it at a crowd of people and they’ll forget everything they just saw. Use a little hypnotic suggestion, and you can even fill in the giant holes in their memories.
Walking out of “Men in Black: International,” I almost wondered if the film had used a Neuralizer on me. It’s not the strongest film in the franchise, nor does it come with many new ideas. It certainly has a few moments of meh. Nevertheless, I felt certain I had just seen a smart, enjoyable, well-crafted piece of summer entertainment.
Here’s what I can say with certainty: “Men in Black: International” builds on the now-familiar world, first established in 1997 by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, in which secret agents use advanced technology to monitor space aliens and keep the public in the dark. It adds two fresh faces: Tessa Thompson (“Dear White People”) and Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”). Together, they create a pleasurable chemistry that keeps this spinoff afloat and, every now and then, makes it really sing.
The two leads previously hit it off on “Thor: Ragnarok,” which cast Thompson as a hard-drinking warrior. The push-pull they created there carries over here. Thompson plays Molly, who as a child spotted an alien pursued by black-suited agents and instantly decided upon a career. Now, as a probationary Man in Black (“Don’t start,” says Emma Thompson as her boss, O), Molly teams up with the legendary Agent H (Hemsworth) to stop a doomsday weapon from falling into the wrong hands.
The screenplay (by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway) may not be terribly original, but it’s nicely written in parts and allows all the stars to shine. Hemsworth works his underused comedic muscles as H, a cocky and slightly sleazy operator, while Tessa Thompson sells us completely on Molly, a combination of bookish intelligence, street-smarts and vulnerability. Liam Neeson lends gravitas to his role as top-ranked High T, Rafe Spall is terrific as the scheming Agent C and a little comic relief comes from a living chess piece named Pawny (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani).
Paced briskly by director F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”), “Men In Black: International” has its flaws, but it also has charm, smarts and even a bit of heart. Call me another duped citizen, but I had a pretty good time.
He’s mostly famous as the Marvel superhero Thor, but Chris Hemsworth is more versatile than his fans might realize. Here are four other films on his resume:
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (2012) Kristen Stewart and Hemsworth played the title roles in Universal’s dark fantasy-adventure. He took the lead in the sequel, “The Huntsman: Winter’s War.”
RUSH (2013) Ron Howard’s film about a legendary Formula One rivalry cast Hemsworth as the talented playboy James Hunt and Daniel Bruhl as the hardworking Nikki Lauda.
BLACKHAT (2015) The athletically-built Hemsworth may not be the first actor you'd cast as a computer hacker, but director Michael Mann gave him the title role in this techno thriller. It was not a commercial success.
GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) One of Hemsworth’s first major comedic roles came in this all-female reboot. He plays a dopey but hunky receptionist who clearly was not hired for his phone skills. — RAFER GUZMAN