Published Feb 21, 2008Theres often been a sense of whimsy in the films of French director Michel Gondry, whether its the fantastical Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or the innovative music videos he makes with bands like the White Stripes. Yet that whimsy, left unfettered in a narrative form, can overtake a film like a diabetic attack in a candy store, and despite a good premise and some charming ideas, thats what happens with Be Kind Rewind.
Mike (Mos Def) is carrying the torch of a successful videostore - and healthy community - for his mentor (Danny Glover). Economics and technology are killing the magnetic tape business, but worse is Jerry (Jack Black), Mikes best friend and general nuisance. In one of his bouts of "eccentricity (read: stupid, irresponsible, thoughtless behaviour made "funny in the Robin Williams tradition), Jerry erases every tape in the rundown store.
In a plot-contrived panic to provide a copy of Ghostbusters for the doddering lady down the street (Mia Farrow), Mike and Jerry film a ridiculously campy "remake in an afternoon, and pass off the 20 minutes of recycled pop culture catchphrases as a movie. Well, darned if that whole approach doesnt immediately take off and lead to round-the-block line-ups of people wanting these dorks take on Rush Hour 2 and The Fellowship of the Ring. Be Kind Rewind suffers from concept-as-plot - the whole narrative is compressed within the premise of the movie - leaving nothing more to watch than Jack Black sink further into his shtick: the idiot-clown with a captive audience (see: High Fidelity, School of Rock). Sure, some of the parody footage is fun, and Gondry is too much of a visual genius to get boring, but his storytelling here is paper thin, as are the extras standing around to represent "community, somehow clamouring for another 15-minute knock-off like its the launch of the iPhone.
The framing device involving the origins of jazz great Fats Waller could have helped give a sense of history and community that Gondry wants to convey but can only talk about, but it comes off as out of touch as the medium in Be Kind Rewind. (Alliance)