Be Kind Rewind

February 21, 2008

be-kind-rewind-img1.jpg 

OUT: February 22nd 

The madcap absurdity of Jack Black, the whimsical imagination of director Michel Gondry and a contrived-yet-intriguing premise are the delectable ingredients in this bizarre recipe. The flavours may not complement each other perfectly and the aftertaste may be a little too sweet, but the chewy centre is just tasty enough. This film has nothing whatsoever to do with cooking, i’m just experimenting with metaphors. So, this movie then…

We join Mike (Mos Def) as he takes over management of Be Kind Rewind video store while owner Mr Fletcher (Danny Glover) is “out of town”. But what’s this? Perpetual nuisance Jerry (Jack Black) has become magnetised while attempting to sabotage the local power station, and erases all the tapes! Rather than try any of the numerous logical solutions, the odd couple set about re-making the lost tapes with their own ancient video camera.

It’s clear from the moment Mike picks up the camcorder how the film was written. The idea of re-making the tapes was the initial brainwave, and the rest of the challenge was in constructing some feeble plot around it- and that’s exactly what we get on screen. The gags are rare and rarely side-splitting, it’s more likely you’ll have a warm smile on your face throughout. The real comedy comes from the ‘sweded’ (the process of putting your own cheap spin on something) movies Mike and Jerry create, with the help of local residents. Ghostbusters, RoboCop and Driving Miss Daisy are highlights, but each re-imagining of the classic repertoire is peppered with ingenuious gadgets and camera tricks on zero budget.

No doubt Gondry takes credit for much of the creativity here, his indie quirks penetrating the mainstream feel to the film wherever possible.

This is also part of the problem, however, and as the low-budget grapples with the Hollywood we’re left with a confusing mixed bag of ideas. When the entertaining concept is exhausted, we make a dodgy three-point-turn into a final act of life-affirming redemption. Though it manages to stay heart-warming rather than overtly schmaltzy, it all feels clumsily crow-barred in or glued to the end of the story with little consideration.

The FBI picking up the copyright trail is understandable and offers a satisfying cameo for Sigourney Weaver, but it happens too soon. Either the ‘sweding’ should have begun earlier or finished later- as it is, the best written, best acted and most enjoyable element of the film is criminally neglected. After the pilot project, Ghostbusters (prompted by the demands of the nutjob Mia Farrow) we see very little of any other re-make, and the obligatory montage-to-music features some strange choices.

Jack Black is also at his best when in front of Mike’s ‘sweding’ camera. Outside of this, his character is an uncontrollable mass of energy with plenty of volume but not much depth. Just because he’s an incredibly talented improvisor, it doesn’t mean you can simply put him on set and let him loose. Black needs material he can rise to, but here he works too hard to suck the laughs from the script- not something you’d associate with Gondry’s style of direction. The result? A strictly hit ‘n’ miss affair, neither helped nor hindered by Def’s uninteresting leading man.

Your best bet is to check out the web site (bekindmovie.com) before you see the film. Officially ‘sweded’ in its own right, the site offers a glimpse into the eccentric, charming world of the small-town video store and an essence of the movie itself.

Be Kind Rewind will stick for its loveable recreations of cult movie classics, rather than its Empire Records-style, stick-it-to-the-man David and Goliath story Jack Black epitomises so well. Not the complete package you’d expect from the production team behind proceedings, but a welcome fight from the people’s corner in the piracy deabte (even if the copyright warning still heads up the opening credits…)

THE CRUNCH

3 / 5  Rocky instalments ‘sweded’

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