When Lionsgate decided not to screen Saw IV for critics nationwide, we understood. There is no force of film journalism that was going to impact that film’s box office take, no matter how positive or negative the reaction. In cases like that, movie reviewers, bloggers and yes, even real critics chalk it up to the movie being just another in the long line of commercially manufactured cash-cows, seemingly bulletproof in a world of critical gangbangers.
And though we so often live up to our gangbanger status, most film writers are fans of great movies first, critics second. We do this job not only because it is something we love, but also because it affords us the luxury of seeing films prior to their public release. In turn, we are here to give the best of them that little push and give the worst of them that kick to the groin that they’ve truly earned.
Vexing is the case of Be Kind Rewind, though, as it is one of those films that could probably use a little push. The fact that we come to find out today that New Line Cinema, the film’s distributor, has canceled countless screenings across the United States (the bulk of which were in the midwest), deciding that there is no reason to show the film to regional press.
No big deal though, right? It is just a bunch of bloggers in the heartland. What do they matter? Well, there are two inherent issues that I can take with New Line’s decision to scrap screenings of Michel Gondry’s film. The first is that it is a fantastic film. As I said in my review from the Sundance Film Festival, this may be Gondry’s most accessible film. Average Joe Americana may not have been up for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and he sure-as-shit didn’t have any idea what to make of The Science of Sleep, but Be Kind Rewind may just be the catalyst that could bring regular folks in the world of one of the most creative directors of this generation. It is headlined by actor Jack Black, whose presence alone opens the film up to a wider audience, just as Jim Carrey’s did for Eternal Sunshine. As well, it is a film about two guys who remake some American cult classics, like Ghostbusters and Boyz in the Hood. How can American audiences not want to see this movie? With a lackluster marketing push thus far, one could surmise that they need someone to show them the way — and a few stuffy critics who saw it at Sundance just won’t cut it.
The second inherent issue is just that, the fact that the only reviews for the film thus far have come out of the Sundance Film Festival. Don’t get me wrong though, I loved the experience of Sundance and can never see myself missing it in any year in the future, but one thing that ran rampant in the snowy street of Park City was that every pompous, elitist prick of a critic showed up. Sure, there was a huge contingent of online writers, all of whom tend to stay more grounded in fandom than your average writer for the New York Times, but that faction was small in comparison with the much larger, much crabbier group of cinema journalism elite.
With that in mind, it is no surprise that Be Kind Rewind is currently parked at 57% on RottenTomatoes with only 7 reviews. This movie needs a push from the regional voices, and it needs it with the quickness.
So what is the moral of this long-winded, highly rant-like story? For one, it is that you should go out and see Be Kind Rewind when it hits theaters on February 22. The film is hands down one of the best films I’ve seen all year to this point. The second is that New Line Cinema needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Do they really have the marketing in place to make this a top 3 box office grossing film without the voices of film pundits behind it? Is not screening a film like this really the best option? I would say no, but that is just me.