Will Smith has finally taken time out from forcing his kids to take over pop culture and is making his own path back to the box office: Columbia Pictures released the trailer to Men in Black III yesterday.

Call it hyperbole, but Men in Black (1997) was the closest thing the ’90s had to Ghostbusters. A science fiction-heavy plot (based off a cult comic book series), a comic actor poised for superstar status, a stupidly catchy theme song – it’s all there. MiB‘s retro-chic, World’s Fair style of spacemen and a story that made enough room for snappy dialogue and physical gags was a wonderful combination.

So it was disappointing when 2002’s Men in Black II, which featured much of the same humor, most of the same characters and all of the same eye-popping visual effects, just didn’t gel the way the original did. It was a feeling not unlike viewing Ghostbusters II, which just couldn’t stand as tall as the original, no matter how many Bobby Brown songs are packed in there. Given that most of Smith’s post-MiB II work has been less than perfect – with flicks like I Am Legend and Hancock ruined by sloppy execution – it’s either surprising, distressing or both that his first movie in four years finds him donning that familiar black suit and shades and protecting the earth from the scum of the universe.

And the trailer, which features mostly repetitive gags and not enough of the side characters we remember (Rip Torn, Tony Shaloub and even that stupid talking pug are nowhere to be found), has sort of a weird direct-to-video quality to it. From what little can be derived of the plot, it seems Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is either missing or dead, and Agent J (Smith) has to time-travel back to 1969 and work with K’s younger self (Josh Brolin, who gets Jones’ mannerisms pretty down pat) to solve the mystery.

There’s a slight twinge of hope with every face Smith pulls for the camera, and this film score nerd’s blood was pumping upon the use of Danny Elfman’s excellent theme during the title card. But until the film makes its debut this Memorial Day weekend, all one can do is nod ya head (black suits comin’) in disapproval.

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