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Vern’s Seen BE KIND REWIND... And Sorta Digs It!

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. As much as I agree with Vern’s take on the wretched DIARY OF THE DEAD, I disagree with him here. But I’ll get into it when I publish my review later in the week. For now, here’s Vern, who has been Sweded.

BE KIND REWIND You might know the premise. Mos Def works at an all VHS video store. Jack Black is magnetized (long story). (No, come to think of it, short story. He climbs into a power plant and gets shocked.) Jack Black's brain erases all of the videos in the store, and Mia Farrow demands to watch GHOSTBUSTERS. So they dress up, go to the library and tape their own ridiculous home-made version of GHOSTBUSTERS directly onto the tape. Because they don't want Danny Glover to know they fucked up. And it goes on from there. The style of BE KIND REWIND is in the spirit of the subject matter. It's real sloppy and cheap and mostly seems unscripted. But like Mia Farrow says of their crappy home-made remakes, this movie "has heart." I've enjoyed all of Michel Gondry's movies including HUMAN NATURE. I don't care if I was uncomfortable from laughing way more than everybody else in the theater, I still love that movie. The Charlie Kaufman-less Gondry is alot sweeter and more lighthearted, and BE KIND REWIND is his version of a cheesy lowbrow comedy. It's not meticulously designed like his other ones, it's more off the cuff. I think making DAVE CHAPPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY must've inspired him to do one that's more spontaneous and is about creativity and community, and has Mos Def in it. (And I think he tried to get Chappelle for that role first.) I would not recommend BE KIND REWIND to your more jaded talkbackers, or anybody who hates Jack Black, or who demands logic or realism in comedies. I'm not in those categories but I still think it's Gondry's weakest. The trailer already gave away most of the plot and the highlights of most of the movies they make. That's not to say there's not other good shit in there, though. Mos Def's surprisingly successful tactic for imitating Chris Tucker in RUSH HOUR 2 is mostly to just say "Lee! Lee!" And I love when he timidly tries to explain that he doesn't want to do DRIVING MISS DAISY because it's "a little condescending." And later when Danny Glover has to explain to Jack Black why he can't wear black face. Most of the movies they remake are from the New Line Cinema library. There's a reference to them doing JASON VS. FREDDY, but you don't see any scenes from it. They come close to doing WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE, but decide on a different one. (I wonder who would've played Wes Craven?) And they don't do BLADE. Or BONES. I would've liked to see them branch out to a couple smaller movies like GUMMO or BAD LIEUTENANT. I think Jack Black would do a good job on that scene where Harvey Keitel is waddling around naked in a Jesus pose and moaning like a sea lion that just got shot with an arrow. But obviously they gotta do mostly movies that a broad audience is gonna be familiar with. At least they threw me WHEN WE WERE KINGS. Alot of the entertainment comes not just from the movie choices but from the inventive no-budget effects. I was especially impressed by their way of making video look like old film, which I assumed was done in a computer but turns out to be in-camera. That's how you know it's a Michel Gondry movie I guess. Even though this stuff made me laugh, it didn't exactly blow my socks off. I think it's more amusing than hilarious. But the movie still won me over from the one aspect I didn't get out of the trailer: Gondry's obviously heartfelt glorification of independent neighborhood businesses, respect for history and the power of creativity and ridiculousness to bring people together. The store is trying to earn enough money to prevent their aging building being demolished and turned into condos. I know the "put on a show to save the community center" bit is an old cliche and a Mr. T favorite, but in this case it's just so accurate and it feels more like a commentary on modern life than a plot device. I don't know about you, but for me it hit close to home. Here in Seattle it's a heartbreaker how often local businesses or nice old buildings with character suddenly disappear and are replaced by generic million dollar condos. The message to rich people is: "Isn't this city great? How 'bout we knock it over so you can live where it used to be?" We fear it so much here it has its own urban legends. There are constantly re-circulating rumors that it's gonna happen to The Showbox, which is one of Seattle's best venues for rock and hip hop shows, and happens to have been there since 1939. The story is they can't get historical landmark status and it would be more profitable to wreck it and turn it into yet another god damn condo. For now it seems to be only a rumor, but the place was recently sold to an out-of-town entertainment conglomerate, and we don't trust those. We just had our basketball team stolen. Can we trust some corporation to feel that contributing to the culture of the city and honoring its history is more important than making some extra money? Of course not. This city will be all condos and nothing else by 2015. I'm surprised the Space Needle is even still there. And Bruce Lee's grave. And everybody's at fault. The people who want to turn it into a condo. The people who sell it to them. The people who buy the condo. They're like the family in POLTERGEIST, they're living on an Indian burial ground and if somebody ever does do that to the Showbox I hope they're haunted by the ghosts of all the great musicians who have gone through there since the Jazz Age. Sadly, they won't even know who the ghosts are because none of them are on the jazz compilation CD they got at Starbucks. Anyway all that might seem like a tangent, but it's exactly what this movie is about. Gondry is smart enough not to play the developers too broad. They aren't the-crusty-dean-in-a-fraternity-movie bad guys. They're basically nice people, but people who don't get it. To them Danny Glover, as the owner of Be Kind Rewind, seems a little crazy. And he is. Gondry seems to realize that he's an idealist and that the world he wants might not work, but fuck it, he wants it anyway. Of course, Glover wants to save his business so he tries to adapt to the laws of the real world. He spies on a Blockbuster-like chain store and decides that what his store needs is uniforms, less knowledgeable staff, and for all of the movies to be divided between action or comedy. And it's true - the pursuit of money and the pursuit of excellence usually don't overlap. More often than not, selling a billion products to a billion people all across the world means your product must be dumbed-down, watered-down, homogenized, test-screened, focus-grouped. BE KIND REWIND is asking us not to let go of the hand made, the home-made, the local, the amateurish, the personal. Their business is pathetic and out of date, but their movies are inexpensive, and the customers know their names without them having to wear nametags. Everything from movie theaters to radio stations to stores and restaurants are moving in the opposite direction – instead of one great business that caters to its specific neighborhood and clientele, you get a thousand identical ones dropped into every city across the country. And you know those jerkoffs in the corporate office on the other side of the country have no idea what people in Seattle like. Be Kind Rewind not only cater to their neighborhood, they actually make their movies by request for specific customers. They know that people like to be involved and see their neighborhood and their neighbors in the movie. The condo developer is sincere when he says that his plan will make their lives better, but he's wrong. Another bad guy that shows up, of course, is a representative of a movie studio that (in one of the more ridiculous scenes in the movie) enforces their copyright claims. I think it's obvious from his movies that Gondry is a pure artist - he just wants to do what he wants to do, and he wishes these systems didn't get in the way. If it was 2008 and you were a kid trying to do a remake of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, or a DJ trying to combine the Beatle's White Album with Jay-Z's black album, or if you were Public Enemy trying to sculpt a thousand samples into It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, you might run into some of these people. Art and culture and quality of life is fun and all, but let me run it by the corporation to make sure it does not interfere with their money. Money is more important. Excuse me sir, I'm going to have to ask you to move, this seat is reserved for money. Gondry ties these themes together into a perfect ending. He warms my idealist heart but doesn't patronize it. Everybody comes together and shares a moment of joy and there is hope about what this could mean, but then the movie ends. If he took it further and had everything work out it would seem phony. Instead he ends on that perfect moment of people coming together, so regardless of what happens next it's a happy ending, because we can just stop and appreciate that moment while it lasts. Alot of times when you say a movie is flawed it means it starts out great and fizzles out. It's nice to see it the other way around this time, a movie that kind of flounders around for a while but then sticks the landing so god damn perfect it almost tricks you into thinking it's a great movie. Other movies they should've done: THEY LIVE, OUT FOR JUSTICE, DAVE CHAPPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY, CRASH (either one), PREDATOR, HELL IN THE PACIFIC. And throw in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET since it's New Line and I'm sure these jokers would do better than Platinum Dunes. anyway that's it, Vern author of Seagalogy
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