When I first saw the trailer for Be Kind Rewind, it made me feel all happy and giggly. I had relatively high hopes for the movie itself, thinking it would have that bizarre brand of humor I've come to expect from writer/director Michel Gondry and, satisfyingly, I was right. It's not the funniest film ever, and it's not the best use we've seen of Gondry's hyperactive imagination — it's just a goofy, silly good time.
The premise itself is funny: Mike (Mos Def) works for Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) at Be Kind Rewind, the video store Mr. Fletcher opened in an old building where Fats Waller reportedly used to live. Mike's friend Jerry (Jack Black), who's a little touched in the head, manages to become magnetized and ends up erasing all the videos in Mr. Fletcher's store. Thus, the two guys — with the help of their charmingly sweet friend Alma — start to "swede" some of the most popular movies in the store, recreating key plot points using the crudest (and most hilarious) of props and special effects. Eventually the whole community starts to help out and business picks up. Yet trouble arises when Mr. Fletcher's building is condemned and everyone needs to figure out how to save him from moving to the projects. That's just the plot, though, so to see what I think of the movie overall, read more.
While the sweded movies are hilarious, what makes the movie's pulse really beat is the actual feeling between these characters. Mike will defend his weirdo friend Jerry to the death, and he's endearingly loyal to his surrogate father, Mr. Fletcher. The characters in the community seem to care about each other and truly want to be a part of this unique movie-making/video rental experience. Parts of the movie are gimmicky, but the people keep it chugging along nicely.
Of all these people in the movie, Jack Black is a particularly welcome addition. I never thought I'd be so relieved to see Black do his same old overwrought, anxiously energetic, physical comedy thing, but in truth, he sometimes saves the scene. At times, Gondry's humor is too strange or just downright not funny, and Black's easy willingness to play the bumbling fool to the hilt is genuinely refreshing. His slapstick combined with Mos Def's earnestness and Gondry's creativity makes for an hour and a half of goofy fun. The energy of the movie loses much of its steam as it crawls toward the end, but the majority of the film is so engaging, I didn't mind. Bottom line: If you're a fan of Gondry's, it's a must-see, and if not, it's good for some chuckles.
To see a preview for Be Kind Rewind, check out movies.ivillage.com.
Photos courtesy of New Line Cinema