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From the first sequence—a straight outta "Beetlejuice" tracking shot of a dragonfly swooping through universes before splattering onto the windshield of a truck—you know you're in for something wonderfully surreal. "Men in Black" is a movie that takes nothing seriously, especially itself, and ends up finishing a half hour too early, leaving any good summer audience with their large popcorn half-finished, desperate for more.

Tommy Lee Jones stars as a wizened alien surveyor, part of a secret government branch that monitors all alien movement within the United States ("Fifteen hundred of them at any given time," he says), trying to stop an evil galactic "bug" from causing a war that would flush the Milky Way down the toilet. As his fresh-faced counterpart Will Smith uses his trademark charm to bring a sense of humor to the already over-the-top proceedings; his combination of cocksure NYPD cop braggadacio and open-mouthed "gee whiz" makes him the movie's charmer.

And really, I'm starting to think that Tommy Lee Jones can do anything. He can stranglehold an alien dog, erase people's memories with a "neuralyzer" pen, dismiss the end of existence with a slight grimace, and then dive into the gullet of a four-story cockroach to fetch his gun—and you still want to give him the Oscar. A movie with this many good ideas needs a man like Jones to tie it all up in the Movie Blockbusters '97 best knot.

—Ian Williams

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