Friday, February 22, 2008

BE KIND REWIND - Viewed, Reviewed, And Returned To The Dropbox *


* It's a film new to theaters but I couldn't resist the old school videotape lingo. When STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH - was the first in the series to not be made available on videocassette, many reported it as the death of the VHS format. 


Well, BE KIND REWIND is here to capture one last gasp of the magnetic medium as the final nails are hammered into the coffin. As a former video store employee who has worked for various chains over the years (most are out of business now and the remaining ones will be soon) I was really looking forward to this movie and excited that it was coming to my hometown theatre. So let's pop it in and push play:

BE KIND REWIND (Dir. Michel Gondry, 2008)


The premise is simple - after all the rental videotapes at a neighborhood store in Passaic, New Jersey get erased, the employees who are strapped for cash and in danger of being evicted remake the films in the inventory with themselves as actors. 

Sounds good so far, right? I mean we get Jack Black and Mos Def playing out scenes from GHOSTBUSTERS, RUSH HOUR 2, BOYZ N THE HOOD, 2001, and many others in homemade costumes with half remembered mostly improvised dialogue. 

For some reason they call these 20 minute D.I.Y. versions "Sweded" and they become so popular that their store soon has a line around the block. Danny Glover is the owner of the business and the building it resides in, which he claims jazz legend Fats Waller was born in. 

Glover soon sees the value of the "Sweded" videos and takes part in them as do most of the customers oddly including Mia Farrow (appearing a bit frail and out of it) whose character is far from defined. Melonie Diaz is recruited to be the love interest in the remakes and she sparks some feelings in Mos Def - but that's not fleshed out either. 

Also it's cool to see Marcus Carl Franklin (the young black kid who was one of the Bobs in I'M NOT THERE) in a small part as one of the local loyal customers. "Far from defined" and "not fleshed out" pretty much state my problems with this film. 

Early on the magnetizing accident which causes the blunder to set the plot in motion is a foreteller of many clunky contrived plotpoints ahead and much of the film feels extremely disjointed. Jack Black's shtick wears out its welcome within the first 10 minutes (or sooner) and Mos Def is likable but too lackadaisical to give this material the needed zing it requires. 

As I suspected with his previous film THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP, Michael Gondry doesn't appear to be the greatest writer - he really should have only directed here and let somebody more experienced with film comedy take a pass at the screenplay. 

The best parts are obviously the remakes - it's great to see Glover and Farrow redo DRIVING MISS DAISY (albeit briefly - Black and Mos Def do their own version earlier on), Black's ROBOCOP outfitted with kitchen pots and pans has its moments, and the cardboard cut-outs when they attempt THE LION KING get some laughs too. It's amusing as well to see Black remake KING KONG because, you know, he was in a real KING KONG remake! 

This time however he plays the ape which might have been the direction Peter Jackson should've taken but I digress. The second half with its jazz soundtrack and the neighborhood communal sentiment (which I could never completely buy into) seems stolen from Spike Lee. 

Not quite the ode to the soon to be extinct VHS format, nor the definitive videostore movie (not that there is such a thing) BE KIND REWIND is not without its charms but it's a tad undercooked. 

Definitely not a must see on the big screen - I would recommend waiting for video. Digital video that is, that way you can go right to the good parts (the film recreations - duh!) and you can Fast Forward, I mean chapter-skip through the forgettable rest of it. Okay, now hit Eject!

More later...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just can't get into the cold sterile look of DVD. Give me the warmth of VHS any day!

Anonymous said...

looking at the trailer I thought this movie looked like it had 'wait for video' written all over it. Your review seems to confirm that.

Evan Derrick said...

I couldn't agree with you more on Gondry's ability as a writer. I practically idolize the director (his music videography on DVD is stunning in its creativity), and his work on 'Eternal Sunshine' was superb, but 'Science of Sleep' was an enormous letdown for me. I haven't seen 'Be Kind' yet, although you reflect what I suspected. He needs to get back with Kaufman.