Mr Fletcher (Danny Glover) owns a video store in a run down tenement in New Jersey. Unless he finds the money for repairs in sixty days, he’s out. When he goes on holiday, he leaves the shop in the care of assistant Mike (Mos Def). But when Mike’s hare-brained friend Jerry (Jack Black) gets electrocuted and magnetised, he wipes the whole stock. Nothing for it, then, but to re-record the films the customers are demanding themselves…
Be Kind Rewind was written and directed by Michel Gondry, who won an Oscar for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a film with an excellent concept, brilliantly realised.
Be Kind Rewind does, at least, have a good concept: two daft guys re-shooting Hollywood movies on no budget using tinfoil and car parts. Unfortunately, what surrounds the concept is less than impressive.
Firstly, there’s the relationship between Jerry and Mike, which should have carried the film but which doesn’t really go anywhere. They’re a believable enough pairing but after a time Jerry’s histrionic and nonsensical strops and Mike’s puppy dog befuddlement starts to get tired.
Then there’s the plot, which doesn’t even make a stab at believability, and yet which isn’t quite odd enough to qualify as surreal. It has a ramshackle feel, and much of the film appears to have been improvised. However, rather than conveying a quirky charm, this makes it seem flabby and drifting and, occasionally, like sitting through a GCSE drama production of the ‘let’s put on the show right here!’ variety. You can imagine the cast shooting the film wondering whether, in the edit, it might turn out to be an offbeat masterpiece. The answer is a resounding no.
The high point of the film was a sequence in which they are seen shooting lots of different movies – but despite their ‘Sweded” versions of films being central to the plot, you see too little of the remakes and too much of the faff that surrounds making them.
Added to that is the fact that Be Kind Rewind isn’t very funny. People generally turn up to a Jack Black film expecting to laugh – indeed, one cinema goer was hooting during the credits in anticipation. Sadly, he was silent for the rest of the film. There are plenty of almost-funny scenes, and three or four moments which are genuinely chuckle-some, but mostly the movie just pootles along, failing to capitalise on its ideas.
Or on its impressive cast - a roll call including Glover, Black, Sigourney Weaver and Mia Farrow, the latter in an oddly large but mostly redundant role as some batty woman or other. Melonie Diaz was sweetly appealing as Alma, the girl that Mike and Jerry draft in as an actress. Mos Def’s hesitant acting style was winning for about two minutes, and then it just got annoying. Jack Black is a greasier, geekier version of the mentalist he usually plays, only not as funny.
Quite what this film is meant to be, I’m not sure. Perhaps, given the VHS aspect and the theme of recreating history which emerges, Be Kind Rewind is a throwback to another age.
It reminded me of Ghostbusters, which perhaps not coincidentally, is the first film the pair remake. But without the decent plot or the humour or the monsters (although Jerry’s pee does goes radioactive) all that’s left is something good hearted but ultimately tedious.
Be Kind Rewind, is on general release