You wouldn't need a 'neuraliser' to forget Men in Black II, an annoyingly crass sequel to the first hit sci-fi caper. But with the third movie, director Barry Sonnenfeld recaptures the old magic between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones - even though Jones has barely ten minutes of screen-time...
As his younger incarnation, in a parallel universe, Josh Brolin somehow manages to do a better Tommy Lee Jones than Tommy Lee Jones. It's a performance so downright eerie, you could be tempted into thinking that Brolin is, in fact, some kind of alien body-snatcher. What makes it even funnier is the way Smith looks at him, with a sideways grin, as if he can't quite believe it either.
Agent J (Smith) has trouble getting his bearings when he travels back to July 1969 to prevent Agent K (Jones/Brolin) from being killed. The perp is Jemaine Clement, who has also undergone a startling transformation from loveable blockhead - in sitcom Flight of the Conchords - into a monstrous alien biker blockhead. Upping the urgency is the fact that K's murder leads to an alien invasion of Earth.
Sonnenfeld takes a playful approach as well, setting the tone with a raid on a Chinese restaurant that serves ET chow mein. Naturally, the visual effects are stunning (including the '60s sets) and Sonnenfeld employs perspective in a way that justifies the use of 3D, but what's more important is that - unlike the second film - the flesh-and-blood characters remain the stars of the show.
Smith makes it look easy, but his cartoonish expressions and constant wisecracks could make him seem less human. Instead, he comes across like an adoring little brother, so eager to win Agent K's approval. Likewise, Brolin might simply have delivered an uncanny impression of Jones, but he lets the mask slip at opportune moments, allowing a credible bond to develop.
Emma Thompson and Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) add another dimension with their supporting roles, foreshadowing the events that turn K into the hard-nut which J finds so tough to crack. Inevitably, the time travel paradox means it's easy to pick holes in the plot, but it's cleverly weaved insofar as demystifying the relationship and the events that drew them together.
The feted Apollo 11 mission to the moon provides a suitably earthmoving backdrop for the grand finale and the moment is given added weight because Sonnenfeld has taken the time to build on the agents' friendship. Of course, it stops short of profound, but this is a funny, exciting, spectacular and surprisingly poignant thrill-ride - definitely worth two of your Earth hours.