Be Kind Rewind
Rated PG-13; Directed by Michael Gondry; Starring Mos Def, Jack Black, Danny Glover, Melonie Diaz, Mia Farrow
Be Kind Rewind sounds like it should be a comedy. It is, but it is also a drama, a fantasy, and a little bit of sci-fi thrown in for good measure. It’s a strange little film that can’t quite decide on what it should be. When it is good, it is very good, and when it is bad, well, it at least tries to be quirky.
The Be Kind Rewind video store has seen better days. Still carrying videotapes instead of DVDs, the store has a local clientele that doesn’t expect anything other than 1980s films. Owner Elroy Fletcher (Danny Glover) is fighting City Hall as they need his corner store to develop a new upper-class condo development. When Elroy heads off to discover how to make his store more successful he leaves Mike (Mos Def) in charge. Of course, things go wrong. Mike’s friend Jerry (Jack Black) is a trouble magnet, and in a series of ridiculous scenes Jerry becomes an actual magnet and manages to ruin all the videotapes. In a frantic need to have something to rent, Mike and Jerry make their own versions of the films.
The fun in Be Kind Rewind is watching familiar films “sweded” (a term that Mike and Jerry use to refer to their own special treatment of movies). Robocop, Ghostbusters, and Rush Hour get the treatment, and it’s here where the movie takes off. Watching Mike and Jerry discover the art of filmmaking in their own idiosyncratic way offers most of the comedy in the movie. It does help to have seen the movies that they “swede.”
Director and writer Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) works hard to make the movie funny, but seems to leave the funny business behind to switch to a more emotional story about the joys of making movies. Subplots are started and then dropped, characters ignored, and the switch to a more meaningful story leads to a soggy mess of an ending that tries hard to be uplifting.
Jack Black and Mos Def make a good team. Black’s craziness is balanced by Def’s laid back performing. Both manage to come across as likeable even when behaving ridiculously. That’s a good trick for comedies. The rest of the cast play their parts well, with Melonie Diaz, as Mike and Jack’s leading lady, managing to hold the screen against Jack Black.
Be Kind Rewind is a pleasant movie with some charm. Michael Gondry takes some chances and comes up good with some of them. Too bad that some of the chances he takes don’t turn out so well. The story offers a nice take on a community coming together, but the real fun comes from watching cheesy movie-making.