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"Men in Black 3": What critics are saying

Will Smith, left, and Tommy Lee Jones in a scene from "Men in Black 3."
Columbia Pictures
Will Smith, left, and Tommy Lee Jones in a scene from "Men in Black 3."
Columbia Pictures

(CBS News) Starting Friday, Agents J and K return to protect the planet from aliens once again in "Men in Black 3."

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reprise their roles from the first two films. In this installment, Agent J (Smith) travels back to 1969 to prevent the murder of Agent K (Jones) by escaped space convict Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement).

Many critics credited the film as being better than the 2002 "MIB" sequel, and praised Josh Brolin for his spot-on portrayal of '60s-era Agent K. Here's what some of them had to say:

Pictures: Summer films 2012

"The first two 'Men in Black' movies did some spoofing of the conventions of the black and white, cross-generational buddy picture, but the third one finds its way back to the heart of the genre," A.O. Scott of the New York Times wrote.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said, "What works, like comic hellfire, is the casting of Josh Brolin as the young Agent K. Brolin's take on Jones' deadpan delivery (they co-starred in 'No Country for Old Men') is spot-on and spectacularly funny. Better yet, Brolin brings in a true actor's grace, adding humor and heart that help explain the origins of Agent K's moody blues."

"This spirited three-quel comes close to the exuberance of the first 'Men in Black' and is a distinct improvement over its limp 2002 follow-up," writes USA Today's Claudia Puig. By filling in the blanks of the back stories of both Agents J (Smith) and K (Jones), it opens up a new era - the late '60s - which provides plenty of fodder for alien jokes and comedy. It also adds an unexpectedly poignant element to the saga."

Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwartzbaum said, "[Director Barry Sonnenfeld] and [screenwriter Etan Cohen] move their baby along with an integrity and gait that ought to serve as a blueprint for other filmmakers faced with the particular challenges of reviving big-ticket and time-dated hunks of pop culture. Amid the mayhem, the movie is sophisticated enough to note the family resemblance between Rick Baker-stitched aliens and the human creatures who populated Andy Warhol's Factory in the downtown Manhattan of 1969."

"Though other newcomers like 'Flight of the Conchords' co-star Jemaine Clement (as Boris) and 'A Serious Man's Michael Stuhlbarg (as an alien who can see possible futures) make strong impressions, 'Men in Black 3' belongs to Brolin, whose Tommy Lee Jones impersonation is so scarily precise that it often sounds like Jones is overdubbing him," said NPR's Scott Tobias.

Other critics weren't as pleased with the film, from the pre-time-travel sequences to its tone.

"Its opening sequences are a near marvel of confusion, mayhem and embarrassments for its actors. If it was a person, you'd worry it had dementia," wrote Time's Mary Pols.

Christy LeMire of the Associated Press said the film "shows the glossy style and vague, sporadic glimmers of the kind of energy that made this franchise such an enormous international hit. But more often it feels hacky, choppy and worst of all just not that funny. And of course, it's in 3-D for no discernible artistic or narrative reason."

"This third outing climaxes with a dark and melodramatic twist that, while adding a layer of nuance and back story that the previous two films never had, also feels wildly out of sync with its audience s expectations," wrote the Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan. "If there ever is a 'Men in Black IV' - and at this point, it s hard to imagine one - let s hope it finds that delicate balance between the yuks and the yucks."

Tell us: Will you see "Men in Black 3"?