It’s been ten long years since Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) last donned the dark suits and shined their little flashlight neuralizers in people’s eyes to make them forget all that weird alien stuff they’d seen. Ten years might even be enough for people to forget that mediocre (at best) second installment in the franchise.

The good news is, the boys are back… and it works. Men in Black 3 is a welcome return to the inventiveness of the original (from way back in 1997), and it’s buoyed by the excellent casting of Josh Brolin as a young K. Brilliant.

While there are part of 3 that don’t work as well as those involved would have hoped, generally it’s a rock-solid reboot (and presumed last chapter) of the up-and-down (and now up again) series.

The action begins with the particularly bad-to-the-alien-bone Boris (“the Animal”) busting out of a maximum security moon prison; he’s got a score to settle with K, who sent Boris away 40 years earlier. Boris escapes, finds a way to jump back in time, and proceeds to wipe away all traces of K. So it falls on J to head back to psychedelic 1969 to set things straight.

When he arrives, he meets up with the young(er) K, and the two work their way through a bowling alley, Andy Warhol, the Apollo 11 moon launch to finally meet up with Boris again, in hopes that this time things will go right.

Smith, in his first movie since 2008’s Seven Pounds, has matured immensely since his early MIB days and easily steps into the role of big man on campus this go-round. And it doesn’t hurt that his comic timing is still as spot-on as ever, and his cool-as-hell charisma jumps off the screen from the get-go. And Jones, relegated to a supporting role (he’s absent for more than half the movie), is still a perfect, dry foil. It’s Brolin, though, who steals the show as perhaps the most inspired casting choice of the past several years.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld seems to have seriously benefited from the time off; the visual effects easily trump the first two, the chemistry between Smith and Jones (and then Brolin) is at an all-time high, and the action keeps going at a decent little clip.

Screenwriter Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder) is to be the only one out of his element here. The plot is unnecessarily convoluted and head-scratching (as is the case with virtually every time travel movie ever made), and several subplots crash and burn– most notably the throw-away bit involving Agent O and her younger self (played by the criminally mis-used Emma Thompson and Alice Eve respectively).

In the end, though, everything actually wraps up nicely with a surprising amount of (dare I say it) heart. The comedy may be more chuckle-worthy than outright laugh-inducing, but this is one Men in Black sequel that won’t have you begging for the neuralizer.

4/5 stars