Movie Review

Men in Black

Reviewed by: Cheryl Sneeringer
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
10 to Adult
Genre:
Sci-Fi Action Comedy
Length:
95 min.

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Rip Torn, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio / Director: Barry Sonnenfield / Released by: Columbia Pictures

K (Tommy Lee Jones) is an agent of a secret government agency called Men in Black. That agency licenses, monitors, and regulates alien (extraterrestrial) activity on earth. Supported by an ultra-sophisticated global monitoring system and armed with technologically advanced weapons, Men in Black oversees the activity of the 1500 (or so) registered extraterrestrials who live and work on earth. These extraterrestrials include, by the way, Newt Gingrich, Sylvester Stallone, and Dennis Rodman. Sound far-fetched? Well, that’s just because one of the responsibilities of this agency is to erase the relevant memories of all earthlings who have seen evidence of alien presence—so of course, you and I would have had our memories erased had we ever witnessed alien activity.

Will Smith plays an ace New York city cop who chases down a street criminal with superhuman capabilities—superhuman because the criminal is actually a cephalopod, an interstellar cockroach in a borrowed human body. Smith’s success at cornering the cephalopod marks him as Men in Black material. He is recruited, given his single-letter name (J), and issued a black suit and sunglasses. He teams up with K, and they immediately find themselves in the midst of a crisis. They must apprehend an intergalactic assassin whose activities could result in the destruction of our planet, and the loss of a galaxy. Where will they find clues regarding the whereabouts of the assassin? From the tabloids, of course. “Best investigative reporting on the planet,” says K.

This film is great fun. It is quirky, imaginative, and intelligent. It works as a comedy; it works as science-fiction; and it works as an action flick. The dialog is crisp and funny. The heroes are interesting and engaging. The aliens are exquisitely designed. Some of the aliens are cute and endearing (like E.T.); others are grotesque and repulsive.

This is potentially a film that the “whole” family could enjoy—with the exception of young children. The scary aliens are big and very ugly, so many scenes will be too visually frightening for young children. The violence in this film is primarily scenes of aliens being shot, and sometimes the result is gooey and gross, but other times the alien emerges none the worse for the experience.

There is no sex or nudity, but there is a very short sequence of mildly suggestive dialogue. There are a handful of occurrences of bad language, and sadly, the first two words spoken in the film are a curse taking God’s name in vain. This film is rated PG-13, but some critics believe it should have received an “R” rating (for violence and profanity).

Year of Release—1997

To learn more about extraterrestrial life from a biblical perspective, see:

What does the Bible say about intelligent life on other planets?

Viewer Comments
Men In Black a great movie???!! Hey, I know as christians we can’t expect much moral substance from movies. And Men In Black had the potential to be a lot of fun. But how desensitized can we get??!! PG-13??!! I’ve seen a few films, and this one was downright dishonest. Portrayed as a sci-fi comedy for the old and young alike, Men In Black spits goo in your face. An alien kills and eats a man from the inside out, crawls inside his flesh, then staggers around the entire movie in its human flesh skin coat while killing people in grotesque ways from time to time. Sorry, but if this is funny to you or harmless recreational viewing, please reconsider your moral sensitivity. If you want goo and gore, fine, watch the original Alien movie—at least it had no pretenses about being a scary and suspenseful in your face monster flick. Men In Black was practically promoted as fun family viewing. Leave this show in the garbage bin!
—Todd Adams, age 30
My grandson (11) thought it was great. His grandmother (57) wouldn’t give this movie the time of day… thought it was insensitive, pointless, unfunny, grotesque, and suggestive. I thought it was somewhere in between. Parts made me feel uncomfortable… others made me laugh.
—G Knox, age 57
You can tell how our young people are desensitized to evil and violence by the way so many thought there was nothing wrong with this movie. The bad language is from beginning to end, the explosive gore is constant, the aliens are not cute, but mostly clearly evil and vile (and we’re supposed to laugh), the cinematography is dark and foreboding to the end, mild jokes are made about white people being racist and non-New Yorkers as being total hicks, there is eating of people alive, disrespect of authority and the military, and a dead person walking around as the main enemy (a rural farmer who was skinned alive, whose skin is worn by an alien, and who gets more grotesque in every scene)filled my brain with so many very strong images of fantasy evil, death, and gore that I felt I needed my brain cleaned after I got home. It took a couple of days for the visuals to fade from memory. Just because of the bad language I would not have let my 13 yr old see it with his friends if I had known. Did I mention the female doctor (“she seems to have a thing going with the undead” says Will Smith)? Actually a good female character—except for the sexual inuendoes (“I’ll let you look down here…”pointing to her crotch) I can’t believe my son saw this junk.
—Peggy Forrester, age 44
MIB was a pretty good movie—the choice of words was not good; using the Lord’s name in vain. They could have changed their choice of words—like “Oh, Man!” instead of “god, da**.” But it did have some good comedy in it. Although it was pretty gross in some parts. (excuse me if I am a girl) my cousins and my sisters went to see it, and we all give it a rating of 3 out of 5.
—Stephanie Girard, age 13
I didn’t know they still made “B” movies. If it weren’t for the language, this would be a great Sunday afternoon, I’m dead to the world, left my mind at the office, movie. It certainly wasn’t worth the $6 I paid for it.
—Jim Wunder, age 45
I loved it, and will definitely rent it on video, if not buy it! It made for a few good jumps and lots of laughs. Go see it, you will know you got your money’s worth!
—Michelle, age 15
I have seen MIB twice now, and have enjoyed the near-absence of profanity and the wealth of originality. I do have a problem with the final scene, depicting aliens playing marbles with our galaxy. I believe this refers to the concept that God may be a child, playing haphazardly with our lives and not caring about the results…
—Sarah Nelson, age 19
I believe men in black was a very funny movie and you will not be disaponted if you see it especially if you like scientific comedy it is also good for any one to see with barly no language, but I guess the scientific special effects can get you a little fritened. I give it four stars.
—john piscak, age 14
Some parts were gross, but that should have been expected in a movie dealing with aliens. I will admit that the use of the Lord’s name in vain was offensive. Overall, the movie was good and I would recommend it for all ages, unless your children are frightened easily. I think that some of us may be going to the movies for the wrong reasons. We cannot go to a secular movie and expect it to be free from anything offensive to us. What really matters is how we let it affect us. If you can walk away from the movie saying that it was funny and enjoyable then you are okay. If anything that goes against your beliefs is terribly offensive to you then maybe you should steer clear of most movies.
—Jessica, age 19
This movie began with two phrases, a curse word, and the Lord’s name in vain, and it went downhill from there. A perfect depiction of why people left behind after the rapture will think aliens took the Christians.
—Jill, age 39
MiB was mildly entertaining. The movie played just like a comic (which the movie was based on). It laid down enough pipe and immediately turned up the heat and proffered glimpses of romance. The plot was very straight lined with no bends or curves. It was profane at times and I think it may have played well without out it. Interesting and amusing fiction nevertheless.
—Bill Royce, age 22
The movie gave lots of laughter but it was hard not to get freaked out. Even my parents fell out of their socks! I understood fine but the thing I do not like is they don’t need to use some of those words, I am a strong christian and for kids younger then me went to see it they would be freaked for a long time I mean it.
—Vicki, age 9
As a Sci-Fi Christian I found MIB very entertaining. It most definitely appealled to my Sci-Fi side and has a lot of in-jokes for those who have followed UFO fokelore. However, that is not that my Christian side was only partially appeased. I did notice and thought it was blatent the cursing the Lord’s name. The language was not bad, but could be better, and on language considering Hollywood’s present trend it was surprisingly lacking the proliffic bad language. So, in all I enjoyed it and would recommend it for all Sci-Fi fans and Christians who realize that Hollywood is of the worldly thought.
—Pat Aquilone, age 27
MIB is graphicly well done and entertaining. Very subtle messages to the undiscerning. One key line was Tommy Lee talking to Will Smith in the park, and he commented about man’s past beliefs of the sun revolving around the Earth, The Earth at one time believed to be flat and just this morning you (Will) didn’t believe in Aliens. Well said in a way to cast just enough doubt that maybe there is something else going on. Satan’s biggest ploy is to first cause doubt in the Truth of God’s Word. Maybe it’s being picky, but for immature believers and the unbeliever it is a potential Satanic foot-in-the-door Biblical sceptic.
—Buddy, age 49
What Men In Black lacks in plot, it more than makes up for in special effects and humor. Will Smith is very funny and Tommy Lee Jones is great. I came away thinking that it was kind of short, though, and there wasn’t much to the plot. All is all, I enjoyed it and got the entertainment I went in seeking.
—Peter Wright, age 21
I thought Men In Black was a good movie. The language was not as bad as I would think it was after reading these reviews. The special fx were great. I thought the violence was mild, seeing as you never actually see any human blood, just alien slime. I thought the movie was clever, funny, and exhibited great acting by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (I never knew he was funny)…
—Tara, age 16
Saw MIB with my 14 year oldson. I thought the running jokes about who was an aliens was funny. Did not care for the Lord’s name in vain. From Hollywood’s standards (or lack of them) it ws as close to a family film as you can get these days. It was campy and in good humor. I will see it again on video.
—Todd Bolin, age 42
I thought The sci-fi—UFO movies are really a manifestation of the unseen world, the spirit world. So many people do not really believe in Jesus and all that he taught us Yet they believe in UFO’s and spacemen. I thought the movie demonstrated that Man is the savior of the world, be it seen or unseen. Interestingly the victory is played out identically in Hercules. The man is consumed by a beast into its belly and then the man kills the beast. We need some Christian movies at the theatres!
—Anthony Brandy, age 36
MIB had good visual effects but the plot was lame. There was bad language but I have heard much worse in other PG 13 movies. My 11 year old enjoyed the film, but my 7 year old could not follow the story line and I put my hands over his eyes twice due to the violent content. For adults and older children, the movie may be worth seeing one time, but leave younger children at home.
—Elizabeth Russell
If the sin of Adam and Eve brought death to all of creation (there was no death or suffering prior to sin) then the sin of humans on Earth would have necessitated the death of anyone not living on Earth as well.
—Tom M., age 36
Let’s say our Creator didn’t mention extraterrestials in His word. I am sure many people who have been bought with the blood of Jesus are going to ask our Lord in heaven about other lifeforms. If they DO or DO NOT find life in outer space, that shouldn’t affect or shake a Born-Again Christian’s faith. we’ll just have to realize that He created them too!!! COME ON SOMEBODY!!!
—Milo Nguyen, age 22
Nowhere in the Bible does God even mention the existence of alien beings, much less any provision for their salvation. The world is having a field day with U.F.O. obsession due to current speculations concerning Mars. New movies focusing on U.F.O.’s seemed to be cranked out every day. Still, it is great to know that Christ is on His throne, and He will only let mankind go so far with challenging God’s Word with scientific speculations.
—K. White, age 23
MIB had potential to be a great family movie but they lost it with the coarse language and human gore. I loved seeing Smith and Jones together and thought the storyline was wonderfull as were the effects. I did find myself repulsed each time the main “bad-creature” appeared on-screen. I didn’t enjoy watching an alien struggle while animating a decaying and stiffening human corpse. Moms, please don’t take the kids. Men, don’t expect to impress your woman with this choice for a date movie.
—Rick Shelton, age 40
I enjoyed this film. It was a good laugh, and action—typical summer movie. I did not think the profanity was too bad. I would let my 12 year olds see the movie, but not my 6 year old—a little too messy.
—Dave H, age 41
Without the bad language it is a good, entertaining movie. I will wait for it to be shown on TV before letting my kids see it. They don’t take out all the bad language, but usually eliminate taking the Lords name in vain. Justifying exposure to this with “kids will hear it anyway” is missing the point. Should we justify murder by saying “people are going to die anyway”? I agree that we (Christians) should take a stand.
—Brent, age 39
The statements that this movie is inappropriate for children due to “taking the lord’s name in vain” is silly. Children will be exposed to this sort of language despite our efforts. It would dissapoiting for them to miss such a delightful movie, when all you would have to do is explain to your children, after the movie, the error in what was said.
—Thomas Maxton, age 43
I noticed that some viewers said that they just ignored the vulger language or called it “PG”language. HELLO what will it take for you to wake up? This movie was utterly disgusting!!! How dare you say that God’s name in vain is only mild or PG language! Ignoring the problem won’t do any good; we as Christians need to take a stand by not watching this trash.
—Rachael, age 14
Men in Black has to be the best movie of the summer so far. It is an original thought (about time) and isn’t just another sequel. I feel bad for the people who walked out on it just for minor profanity. And come on, the sludge created after the destruction of the aliens was far less than gory. Take your 6 year olds only if you want them to have a good time.
—Andrew Lawson, age 17
The day before I went to M.I.B I read your Moral Ratings and comments. I went to the movie expecting a lot of vulgar language, but there was practically no swearing for a PG-13! Back to the Future had about 5 times more swearing than M.I.B. In fact, I don’t know why they rated this movie PG-13, I would give it a PG. The most “offensive” scene is in the mortuary where sexual innuendo’s occur.
—Brian Pedigo, age 17
“MIB” is the best summer movie yet. A grand comedy and sci-fi film that “Mars Attacks” should have been. The acting and interaction of Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith was excellent, the effects were well done but not at point of overkill and it had a new plot on alien invasions. The language was at the soft “PG” level: suggestive or mildly vulgar. The violence was mainly against blue blooded aliens and so more on the cartoonish side. I was unsettled by the philosopical ending with infinite universes being the playthings of creatures. I guess I couldn’t enjoy the joke since that is the province of God. Otherwise I recommend the film.
—Jerry Randall, age 40
“Men in Black” is the most original and entertaining movie to come along since the first “Terminator.” Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith make a compatible pair. Unless most white man/black man teams, there are no predictable racial difference cliches. They don’t play basketball, for instance. What makes this film truly amazing is not necessarily the awesome special effects, but the lack of gratuitous sex and violence.
—Jeff Grygny, age 29
I enjoyed the film. When I go to see a movie of this nature, I pay no attention to profanity. As in every day life, I cannot expect non-Christians to use perfect english. So I have gotten used to ignoring such profanity. The only drawback I noticed in the film, was its length. I left the theatre thinking “that’s it?” The plot was not impressive, but you have to realise what it takes to create all those aliens. It takes weeks to render the computer animated characters. But I found this to be the best implementation of such technology yet.
—Ben Isaacson, age 17
I’m surprised at your positive comments! Though there was mild humor, the plot is poor and the use of discusting language made me regret going to it; particularily with my 10 yr old son. My recommendation is don’t waste you time or money. As pointed out in several comments, our God’s name is used in vain with the very first two words; not surprising, but very disappointing.
—Dan Hall, age 39
I really enjoyed this movie a lot. After several disappointments (Lost World, B and R), this one didn’t let me down. There was some profanity which didn’t need to be in there. The movie would have been just as good, better even, if it had been left out. It was scattered throughout the film, not just one long smattering of profanity. The violence was in the “Beetlejuice” vein. Young children will probably be scared.
—Brian Boguhn, age 32
First off, why is everyone comparing MIB to ID4? Id4 was a war of the worlds rip off, with more plot holes than the government has coverups. But anyway, like the reviewer said the first thing that caught my attention was the language, I was shocked that the first words were taking the Lord’s name in vain and that it was excessive after that. I didn’t find it extremely violent, only two humans died, the rest were aliens.
—Jesse Clark, age 15
Funny movie… the funniest of the year. MIB is great entertainment. It’s very gross, and I honestly didn’t catch the overabundance of profanity. It’s no ID4 but MIB stands on its own merits.
—Chris Utley, age 24
Went to see this afternoon, and walked out after 15 minutes. I waited that long for the comedy to start. The language was awful, the scenes violent and gross. I didn’t hear any review before hand except Joel Seigel. He said it was “Must See.” I say it’s “Forget It.” I’m glad I didn’t take my 6 year old, like the people who were in front of us!
—Toni Cook, age 46
I just got back from the theater after seeing this movie and I really enjoyed it! It had a good storyline (I don’t know how anyone can say it didn’t have a plot), great special effects, and the rapport between Smith and Jones was very engaging. It had a lot of action and humor… I can’t recall having been bored at any time during the movie. Yes, there is bad language, but it isn’t that bad (I’ve heard worse during the day at work). Even so, I feel they could’ve cut out all the bad language and only hinted at what was happening to the victims who were being killed, and the movie would have been just as good. I would recommend this film to anyone who loves sci-fi, but I don’t think it is a film for anyone under 13.
—Lori Ray, age 35
I found this movie predictable, no plot (or at least a very simple plot), and with very little unique comedy situations. The continued usage of profanity left me regretting my decision to see this movie.
—Floyd Kramer Jr., age 40
I thought Men In Black was a great movie except for all of the language problems. It seemed as if every other word was bad. I would not suggest taking anyone under the age of 14 to see this movie. If you are like me and can ignore the language, then kick back and enjoy one of the funniest movies ever made.
—Kristi, age 15
Just saw Men In Black. The language spoiled what for me was a funny, clever movie. I saw it with my 28 year old son and we both felt the same. Still enjoyed it but too much bad language.
—Roger, age 52
“Mildly suggestive”? A “handful” of bad language? C’mon! On your recommendation I saw this flick and am embarrassed to have done so. And anyone who brings their children to this film should have their spiritual maturity checked by someone greater than I.
—Richard Maffeo, age 47
I also thought that MIB was a great film. The only draw back was the profanity which could have been eliminated or at least cut down. Overall, my daughter (age 8) and I fully enjoyed the movie.
—Renee Smith, age 25