Consider this; the plot in a nutshell has a bumbling pair of likable guys remaking cinematic ‘classics’ on a shoestring budget in the hope of generating the cash to allow a video shop to remain open. Kooky right? The kind of film only a few gonzo types might be able to make work? If I made a list of potential directors it might span three names – Guillermo Del Toro, Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry.
Spike Jonze produced the film. Michel Gondry directed.
If I was to then sketch out a wish list for potential casts, it might be a longer list, but it would definitely have Jack Black on it. And I can definitely see justification for Mos Def. the fact that Danny Glover plays the kindly old video shop owner is but the added cherry on the sundae.
All of these pieces are in place. But it still all goes wrong.
Passaic is a run down area in need of gentrification. There are willing property developers ready to come in, wrecking balls blazing. But Mr Fletcher (Glover) the owner of the run down video store Be Kind, Rewind – a store renting exclusively VHS tapes – is determined to stay open and waylay these best laid plans for a while yet.
When Mr Fletcher leaves for a brief stay elsewhere, during which he spies on bigger ‘Blockbuster’ style competitors, he leaves well meaning but easily lead Mike (Mos Def) behind to tend the fort, stressing only one thing as he ascends the train steps “Keep Jerry out”.
Jerry (Black) is an amiable crackpot. A conspiracy theorist who thinks the nearby electrical plant is doing strange things to everyone’s brain. It is after a late night mission of ‘idiot espionage’ to the plant that Jerry returns electro-magnetized – with the end result being every tape in Be Kind Rewind erased.
Even shitty video stores rely on rentals to stay afloat, and faced with a hundred covers housing a hundred blank tapes, Mike concocts an idea so crazy that it couldn’t possibly work.
So of course it does. The idea is that Mike and Jerry – and a Laundromat employee named Alma – will simply remake these films using anything at their disposal. Which isn’t much. Of course these twenty minute, amateur, no budget hack jobs become the talk of the town within days, and everyone not only wants to rent the films – at whatever cost – they want to appear in them also.
Now cast your mind back to the last primary school play you went to and think “would I pay twenty bucks to see several projects all varying degrees of that?”
Of course you wouldn’t. But you’re not Michel Gondry. Few are.
Unfortunately while the film is indeed endearing and often creative, even Gondry can’t inject it with enough magic to make it any more than an overblown skit with a painfully unrealistic and unearned ‘feel good’ ending. After you see the Ghostbusters replica, then the Rush Hour 2 one, you understand exactly what will develop. You don’t need 37 more examples. Alas that’s more or less what happens, with a 30 second snippet of the newly selected film indicative of what the end result would have been. The exact same end result for every film.
Be Kind Rewind is an intriguing premise with the right ingredients and the right man behind the project. But it should have begun and ended as a DVD (or VHS ) extra, not a painfully over-long and unfunny 100 minute feature film.
It’s just hard to imagine this going as wrong as it ultimately does. But believe me it goes so wrong.
Final Rating – 6 / 10. I still like Gondry. I harbor no ill will or resentment to the cast (except for Gulliver’s Travels Mr Black), but this film would be better titled Be Kind (to yourself) Fast Forward.