Like a pleasant evening at a minor-league baseball game, “Men in Black: International” never fools you that you’re getting the top-drawer stuff. But it offers some fun diversions along the way.
The only problem is you’re paying major-league ticket prices. So file this one away for watching at home later, where its amusements will probably play better.
There’s no sign of Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones in this one, except in one sideways visual gag. Emma Thompson returns to the role of Agent O, a high-up honcho with the secret organization that combats extraterrestrials.
The newest recruit to the MIB force is Agent M (the busy Tessa Thompson, stepping out of the Marvel world for a minute). In childhood, M witnessed MIB agents doing their thing, without having her memory erased. So she always knew they were out there.
Her first assignment teams her with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth, stepping out of the Marvel world for a minute), a cocky veteran in London. There’s a decent Thor joke at Hemsworth’s expense, and generally he looks relieved to shed a little superhero muscle.
They chase aliens, not surprisingly, with the help of a creature called Pawny, a strange little talking reptile. He is voiced by Kumail Nanjiani, from “The Big Sick,” who conjures his share of laughs with vocal inflections alone.
The cast includes Liam Neeson, as the European bureau chief, and “Mission: Impossible” star Rebecca Ferguson, as Agent H’s former flame. Although she is given a third arm in the middle of her back, Ferguson has far too little to play with here.
Director F. Gary Gray goes for a breezy, offhand tone, which means the movie stays low-key in a way that’s both agreeable and underwhelming. It’s hard to build to a knockout climax when the movie seems more interested in teasing out little grins along the way.
If I had to venture a guess about the plot, I would say it involves a pair of evil twins who float around in a purple cloud, in search of an Infinity Stone. Or wait, was that the Marvel thing? It’s something like that, anyway.
Lacking a strong pulse (and the top-tier budget for really huge action scenes), “MIB: International” leans heavily on its two lead actors. They have nice chemistry, and Tessa Thompson exhibits a flair for quirky line readings and throwaway spunkiness. It’s an appealing turn in a movie that seems almost embarrassed about troubling you with the requisite pyrotechnics and flying cars.
“Men in Black: International” (2½ stars)
A modest entry in the “MIB” franchise, breezing along on a low-key approach and modest action scenes. Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth create a nice rapport as the extraterrestrial-hunting agents, as interested in quirky line readings as in saving the world.
Rating: PG-13, for violence
Showing: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Seattle 10, Woodinville, Cascade Mall