Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Rosario Dawson, Lara Flynn Boyle, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub and Rip Torn.

Sharp black suits, skinny black ties, shiny black Ray Bans, a talking dog and Lara Flynn Boyle as a multi-tentacled alien - the Men in Black are back and on the screen of your local multiplex after a five-year layoff.

A massive box office success during the summer of 1997, 'MIB' struck gold with a very simple idea: Earth is an intergalactic stop-off for aliens and a secret government agency called Men in Black are responsible for keeping tabs on them. This time round, the premise is the same but there's a new threat to Earth's survival - alien queen Serleena, with the body of a leather-clad lingerie model, snake-like tentacles and a pretty standard yearning to rule the universe. There's only two men that can stop her – MIB agents Jay (Smith) and Kay (Jones).

Since Kay's memory was neuralized at the end of the previous film when he retired from MIB, Jay has taken his place as the most professional - and solitary - agent in the organisation. Unable to hang on to a partner since Kay left, he is initially teamed up with tough-talking, cigar-smoking Frank, a dog who puts the pug in pugnacious and who very nearly steals the show out from under the feet of his fellow agents.

Meanwhile Kay, formerly the "most feared human in the universe", is now the super-efficient postmaster in a little town in Massachusetts and remembers nothing about his former life. But, as he's the only person who knows how to stop Serleena, Jay and Frank are sent to bring him in for deneuralization and to save the world once again.

Initially slow to get underway, the film truly kicks off when Jay is teamed with the scene-stealing Frank and then goes into overdrive with Kay reappears, as deadpan as ever, while Jay regresses to his old hyperactive self in the presence of his former mentor. Real people aside, the coffee-drinking worm guys from the first film return for more screen time, this time as martini-swigging rat-packing lounge lizards; and one of the stand-out moments occurs when Kay opens a train terminal locker at Central Station on a city of little creatures that worship him as their god.

Second time around, 'MIB II' looks great and there are lots of quirky details to keep your attention but its a rare sequel that can best its predecessor - and this is not that sequel. It has its moments but is too often reduced to recycling old jokes (blowing off pawnbroker Jeebs' head - again, aliens who are earth-celebrities this time include Martha Stewart and Michael Jackson) - and this in a running time that is only 88 minutes long. Pity they didn't spend some of the money that was evidently pumped into the special effects and CGI on a decent script. Having said that, it's a fun flick - just hang your brain outside and enjoy.

Caroline Hennessy