Be Kind Rewind (2008)
Be Kind Rewind (2008)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.

Release Date: February 22nd, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Michel Gondry Actors: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Mia Farrow, Melonie Diaz, Chandler Parker, Arjay Smith, Quinton Aaron

 


 

“B

e Kind Rewind” could work as a short film, but as a feature length comedy it runs dry relatively quickly. A simple yet absurd idea fuels quality parody laughs, but the story attempts to have meaning – which it’s unable to muster. Essentially a series of skits sewn together with incongruous drama, “Be Kind Rewind” bizarrely executes a plot that fuses reality and fantasy in the most unpalatable of manners. When every harebrained concept is wholly unrealistic and the conflict is depressingly real, the outcome is one that can’t find resolution – least of all satisfactorily.

In Passaic, New Jersey, Mike (Mos Def) is left in charge of a shoddy video rental store called “Be Kind Rewind.” The owner, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), takes a vacation to investigate methods to make his business boom. Being threatened by contractors who wish to level his dilapidated building, Fletcher’s only hope is to raise a huge sum of money to pay for the necessary repairs.

When neighboring friend Jerry (Jack Black) accidentally becomes magnetized and erases all of the VHS tapes in the store, Mike must quickly think of a plan to replace them. Jerry suggests re-filming each movie using themselves as actors, and much to everyone’s surprise, the customers actually like the homemade short films. Recruiting Alma (Melonie Diaz) and several of the townsfolk (allowing them to become “stockholders of their own happiness”), Mike and Jerry start raising money to save the nostalgic store – but events soon spiral out of their control when studio agents discover the copyright-infringing antics of the desperate duo.

A few riotously funny gags occur outside of the direct spoofs of popular blockbuster films, but the real draw is in the amateur filmmaking stabs at vastly recognizable cinematic sensations. Additionally, an unusual camouflage skit is thrown in for unrealistic measure, a badly botched break-in constitutes slapstick, and Jack Black dons an awkward “blackface” look. Unfortunately, most of these supporting gimmicks are insignificant next to the laughs derived from the mocking of famous features, from “Ghostbusters” to “Rush Hour 2” to “Robocop” to “Driving Miss Daisy.”

“Be Kind Rewind” starts to take shape on the level of a mindless buddy comedy, but quickly diverts to a lackluster drama that wishes to exude poignant motifs of believing in oneself, overcoming odds, and the uplifting power of community. It all seems tragically wasted, particularly as these extras exist solely to embellish the simple idea of comically recreating classic pictures – a concept that couldn’t be written to compose an entire film. Furthermore, the boundaries of realism (even in a comedy) are dashed aside when Jack Black becomes magnetized during his power plant sabotage attempt, and when the city’s colorful characters begin participating in the juvenile filmmaking scheme.

The concepts explored are so largely unfathomable that it doesn’t matter that director Michel Gondry interferes with the viewer by adding distortion to the screen or by employing other manipulative visual devices. Gathering together $60,000 in one week, “Sweding” dozens of films with little more than three actors and a few props, and battling evil movie studio lawyers are notions devoid of any rationale. It’s all very much a fantasy. Plus, the project loses its focus early on, resorting to immature sight gags that blend slapstick with crudeness as it becomes aware of the shortcomings of merely lampooning famous flicks.

Michel Gondry has again taken an intriguing idea and crafted a bizarre comedy rife with experimentalism. Ludicrous and laugh-out-loud funny at times, but dreadfully serious at others, “Be Kind Rewind” never fully realizes the potential of its comedic premise. The suspension of disbelief required by the audience becomes a far more demanding task when routinely delirious events occur during bleak situations. Unfortunately, Gondry’s film isn’t kind enough to just let viewers have their laughs.

– The Massie Twins

  • 4/10