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Men in Black (Deluxe Edition, 1997) – DVD Review

Men in Black Deluxe Edition DVD


Written by: Ed Solomon, based on the comic book by Lowell Cunningham
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rip Torn, and Linda Fiorentino


  • Widescreen and full-screen versions
  • Visual and audio commentaries
  • MiB II teaser trailer
  • Sneak peek at MiB II
  • Extended and alternate scenes
  • Music video with Will Smith
  • Storyboard comparisons
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Men In Black documentary
  • Production notes
  • Scene-editing workshop
  • Conceptual art gallery
  • DVD-ROM content

Released by: Sony
Region: 1
Rating: PG-13
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Own it.

[ad#longpost]With Men in Black, Jones and Smith, along with director Sonnenfeld, launched an obscure Malibu Comic title into mega-stardom. Once an under-appreciated cult favorite comic book, the movie brought the sheer surreal comedic value of the shadowy MiBs acting as the intergalactic INS to the big screen. And it did so with one of the best-cast “buddy cop” pairings since Gibson and Glover. Will Smith is pitch-perfect as the swaggering rookie on the squad, trying to play it cool with his newfound knowledge of a New York City crawling with alien refugees. To this loudmouth rookie, Tommy Lee Jones plays the ultimate straight man, setting up the gags so Smith can knock ’em down (though in fairness, he sneaks a few bits of desert-dry humor in when nobody’s looking).

The plot is fairly straightforward: nasty alien comes to Earth looking for a power source secreted there by a different alien species. Rightful owner species shows up, demands MiB get their power source back, and the bug goes on a killing spree. The supporting performances are every bit as entertaining
as the leads. Vincent D’Onofrio is excellent as the alien-in-a-human-suit, and Linda Fiorentino does good work as the vaguely creepy medical examiner. Jones and Smith chase leads and battle baddies, making sure the public are never any the wiser. Rip Torn is likewise excellent as the MiB man in charge, Zed.

Essentially nothing more complex than great, summer-blockbuster, popcorn-chomping fun, the movie manages to entertain and amuse with a dash of style so often absent in the studio flotsam that litters the box office between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Effects are good, score is good, acting is good. No complaints. With a digitally mastered audio and anamorphic video transfer, the DVD looks every bit as solid as the original release. For those that are “black bar challenged,” they were even kind enough to include the full-screen version, though it still eludes me why anyone would prefer that to the original aspect.

Will Smith, Rip Torn and Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black
Will Smith, Rip Torn and Tommy Lee Jones

Extras are deep, including making-of documentaries, an excellent commentary with Jones and Sonnenfeld (with optional visuals, including telestrator and talking heads a’la MST3K), and some sneak preview looks at this summer’s sequel. There are also some great extended scenes and alternate takes that could have easily made the final cut, but were chopped ostensibly for running-time reasons. The commentary is amusing, as Jones displays the same brand of wry humor in person as his character does on screen. There are some slow spots when nobody’s doing a lot of talking, but for the most part, it stays informative and interesting throughout. The storyboard-to-feature comparison, concept gallery, and “scene editing” extras are pretty cool, too. It would have been nice to see a bit more involvement from Smith on this one, but other than that, the extras are solid.

So, if you like sci-fi with a dash of humor (or humor with a dash of sci-fi, either way), Men in Black is definitely one to add to the collection. Woe to those that picked up the earlier DVD packages, and shame on the studio for not putting out a disc with these features much sooner. The whole “juice ’em with a special edition just before the sequel” trick is going to wear thin on the DVD buying crowd fairly quickly, and then maybe we’ll see the quality DVDs right off the bat, instead of being baited with substandard releases for a couple of years before the real deal hits the streets.

Vincent D'Onofrio in Men in Black
Vincent D'Onofrio

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