"Men in Black: International" was meant to be a spinoff/reboot that could revitalize a dormant franchise.
Instead, it does the opposite. If there's ever another "Men in Black" movie, it will be because someone waves a memory-wiping neuralyzer and makes everyone forget how awful this one was.
Either that, or Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones will have to come back as "Grumpy Old Men in Black."
Ranging from punishingly awful to mildly amusing, "Men in Black: International" wears out its few fresh ideas and slogs along on a tedious path to the outer galaxies of viewers' patience.
The replacements for Smith and Jones are Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson -- Thor and Valkyrie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe -- who fail to generate much charisma or chemistry as the setting hops from London to Paris to the Sahara desert.
Hemsworth is hotshot veteran Agent H and Thompson is scrappy rookie Agent M. Both start the film as determined loners, but inexplicably team up to investigate a lost something or other.
The plot spins its flying saucers and goes nowhere slowly. Director F. Gary Gray can't find a dramatic beat to stick with, and loses the sense of above-it-all allure that Smith and Jones thrived on in the first three films.
Will sparks develop between the two? Will they derail a secret plot that endangers the Men in Black organization and peace in the universe? Will the audience manage to resist the urge to keep checking their phones to see how much time is left?
Such questions build the only suspense in a movie that seems to go on for lightyears.
No matter how tepid the script was, the film could have been saved by magnetic performances and inventive visuals. With rare exceptions, the humor is corny and obvious and the art direction is haphazard, low-grade CGI sprayed on the screen to conjure aliens seemingly created by mix-and-match flip books you used to pass the time as kids on road trips.
Rebecca Ferguson jumps into the film in the late going, adding a minor spark, but it's not enough to pull the straying ship back into orbit.
There's no saving "Men in Black: International" from implosion. This is a series that needs to die, and the listless, droll movie accomplishes that task.
RATING: 1 star out of 4.