Be Kind Rewind

Review Date:
Director: Michel Gondry
Writer: Michel Gondry
Producers: Georges Bermann, Julie Fong
Jack Black as Jerry
Mos Def as Mike
Danny Glover as Elroy
An old man leaves his local videostore to his best employee to watch while he goes away for a few days. As soon as he leaves, all of the videotapes in his store are demagnetized, so the employee and a local goof from the neighborhood (you guessed it, Jack Black!) decide to re-shoot the films themselves, on an uber-low budget, just so their patrons can have something to watch. The “new versions” of the movies catch on, and the next thing you know…well, they’re filming more versions of other movies and so on and so forth. Oh, and there are some corporate sons-of-bitches who also want to shut down the old man’s store, etc…
I’d always appreciated director Michel Gondry for, if nothing else, the sheer imagination that he puts into all of his films, but even he must know that originality alone doesn’t make a movie, and that you actually need characters that make sense, a story that will interest an audience and yeah…maybe even some “heart”, as described in this film, although not inserted into its own DNA. What Gondry has put together here (and from his own script, so nobody really to blame but himself) is a 5-minute “clever” sketch for “Saturday Night Live”, but instead of selling the idea to “Mad TV” or SNL itself, he decided to turn it into a 100-minute full feature motion picture, and I for one, was bored stupid most of its way. Once you get past the initial “clever” idea of the guys wanting to videotape their own versions of all the movies in their video-store (and even then, that’s more stupid than clever), the film basically just repeats itself until the end. The characters have no dimension, the so-called “neighborhood” appears to be about 50-odd people who come and go on a soundstage and the low-quality nature of their movies eventually isn’t so “low-quality” anymore and ends up integrating trains, cranes and a cast of almost 100 people or more (none of whom apparently have jobs?).

Okay, maybe I’m being too hard on the film…I realized only about 30 minutes into it that it was actually a “fantasy/comedy”, but even then, most of the fantasy happens early on, after which we’re back in the real world, and supposed to follow these three very uninteresting and…well, dumb characters all the way to the film’s maudlin conclusion (which almost made me puke by its sheer sappiness). And if you’re gonna mix genres, make sure it clicks with the audience, and that it’s not just you and your stoned buddy who are “in on the joke”. I thought the joke was on me about halfway through this film, at which point I would rather have played “Tail the pin on the asshole critic in the crowd” than sit through the rest of the pretentiousness on the big screen. By the way, would any more than 2-3 people actually pay money to watch the cheap movies that Black and Mos Def create in this picture? I mean, they’re “cute and clever” in that “Look at what my 6-year old shot in the backyard with our Hi-8 camera yesterday” kinda way, but they’re certainly not good by any stretch of the imagination…or entertaining! (and God knows, I’m one to dig on movies solely for being “entertaining”). In fact, the film as a whole sometimes felt like it should be an “extra” on its DVD, as opposed to being a film on its own.

It’s obvious to me that Gondry thought of a few witty low-rent ways to shoot scenes from classic movies, and decided to write a script around it. Actually, scratch that! This film actually felt like it was writing itself as it moved along, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I found out that most of it was improvised on the spot. Sure felt like it in several scenes. Or maybe it was just edited badly. Or maybe it’s just supposed to be jumbled? And how does a girl that these two guys met five minutes earlier, suddenly become their champion, motivator and financial advisor three minutes later? Who knows! Not much about the film, its characters’ motivations or ultimately its odd mix of comedy (I didn’t laugh once the whole film), fantasy and sentimentality worked for me on any level whatsoever, and I can’t imagine ever watching this movie again under any circumstances. If you want to “give it a shot”, feel free, but remember that much of what you saw in this film’s trailer, is the actual movie…and not much deeper. And a little “psssst” to director Michel Gondry: stick to directing and leave the quirky screenplays to Charlie Kaufman, mon ami. Nobody can do it all alone. Danny Glover was pretty good as the old guy though. And Melonie Diaz has a hot body. Other than that, this movie sucks pretty badass. Unless you enjoy jumbled messes, of course.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

Be Kind Rewind



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