Men In Black: Deluxe Edition

Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio, Rip Torn, Tony Shaloub, Siobhan Fallon, Mike Nussbaum, Jon Gries. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1. 98 minutes. 1997. Columbia TriStar 43396 08771. PG-13. $19.99.

Big stars. Big bugs. Big hit. Which of those ingredients making up 1997's Men In Black is most likely to account for this, the third DVD release of the film in five years? None. What triggered this DVD re-re-release is this year's big sequel, MIB II, featuring the same big stars and more of the same buggy special effects, and a huge hit in its own right.

Columbia TriStar—owned, like most things on the planet, by Sony—decided that MIB II was a great occasion for reissuing the DVD edition of this sci-fi/action/ comedy/buddy flick. Who can blame them? After all, MIB was a near-perfect summer hit, pairing an odd couple of big-name actors in a high-octane celluloid revision of a comic-book story. It raked in nearly $600 million worldwide, not counting DVD and VHS sales and rentals. Those who might blame Sony could be the folks who bought the Limited Edition a few years back and are itching to get this Deluxe Edition as well, hoping for more extras about agents K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith).

K and J are a fun twosome, no doubt about it. Jones, the humorless K, winds up stealing laughs from the brash, streetwise J (Smith). Together, K and J, dressed in black, try to keep peace among a variety of aliens visiting Earth from outer space, here to do a little shopping, some sightseeing, and/or to conquer the universe. Vincent D'Onofrio delivers a memorably physical comedic performance as an ill-tempered alien using the dead body of a redneck jerk as a disguise.

Packaged in a tres cool black cardboard box, with a little pamphlet of the sort you'd toss if it arrived with the mail, the Limited Edition sells for about 40 bucks. The new Deluxe Edition includes all of the Limited's extras, but lacks the box and pamphlet—and goes for about half the price. So if you've already got the Limited, don't go for the Deluxe. The only difference between the discs themselves is that the new release includes a featurette (more like a commercialette) about MIB II. If that and a cardboard box are worth $20 to you, you probably also have the very first DVD release of MIB ($15) and way too much money.

Disc 1 contains the movie and a funny, insightful "visual commentary" track by Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld. The visual part of the commentary consists mainly of small silhouettes of the two men at the bottom of the screen as they discuss the making of the film, as well as a few lines drawn here and there, of the sort John Madden scrawls on your TV screen during football games, to highlight images on the screen. Luckily, you can skip the visual stuff and simply tune in to Jones' dry wit and Sonnenfeld's earnest, modest descriptions of his work.

Disc 2 is crammed full of extras, including the standard "Gosh, it was great making this film" documentary, a music video by Smith, a fascinating, multi-angle deconstruction of the special effects created for a scene in which J goes toe-to-toe with an intergalactic cockroach, some extended and alternate scenes, and a scene-editing feature that allows you to kinda-sorta play editor (you get to make minimal changes to a scene and see how your changes alter it).

Like the first two editions of MIB, the Deluxe has excellent sound, with lots of great effects in the surround channels, and a fine, detailed picture with sharp, deep blacks, rich colors, and no distracting pixelization or edge enhancement. My recommendation: If you don't have either of the first two editions, this is the one to get.

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