When it comes to originality, there are only a handful of directors who can say that each of their films are totally unique. Michel Gondry is one of them. Gondry, who helmed 2004’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a film I consider to be one of the most creative and inventive masterpieces of this or any other decade, is now credited with writing and directing the new comedy Be Kind Rewind, and unfortunately, my high expectations were not met. The film takes a clever premise and wastes it on an apathetic effort. If you’ve seen the film’s trailer, you’ve seen just about all the laughs Be Kind Rewind has to offer. The film gets so tangled up in the remaking of other films, which is entertaining enough, but it forgets to put the same amount of care and touch on it’s own story and characters. When it comes to the in between scenes, Be Kind Rewind is much ado about nothing.
The film is centered around the titular video and thrift store, which in the rapidly growing era of DVD, is going fast out of business. Construction companies are threatening to demolish the store and make it part of a new apartment complex. Faced with the almost insurmountable task of raising X amount of dollars to bring the store to pristine quality, the owner, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover, 2006’s Dreamgirls), leaves town on business to research what the store needs to improve on. He leaves in charge store clerk Mike (Mos Def, 2006’s 16 Blocks), whose pal Jerry (Jack Black, 2007’s Margot at the Wedding) is a clumsy ne’er-do-well who Mr. Fletcher wants kept out of the store while he’s out of town.
After Jerry is electrocuted by a power transformer and his body magnetized, he walks into the store and fiddles with each videotape. The next day, customers come into complain that the videos they rented are blank. Now, not only has the store failed to meet a substantial number of government regulated codes, they don’t even have a product of value to sell. So, just like that, Mike and Jerry decide, in the span of a day, to shoot their own version of Ghost Busters to lend to the affable Miss Falewicz. Before they know it, everyone in town is hungry to see the homemade remakes of their favorite films.
There’s a hint of Frank Capra hovering around here and it raises questions like: is it believable that so many people would be lined up and willing to pay $20 (yes, that’s what they charge!) to see a 20-minute amateur remake of a classic movie? Furthermore, there is the plot element of the threatening construction company wanting to demolish the video store unless it gets up to speed, but how, in the era of DVD and now Blu-Ray, has it managed to stay in business to this point? The rapidly decaying store feels like it should have been done away with years before. Director Gondry should have made clear the exact year the film is set in. If it’s 2001 or 2002, the concept might be more understandable, but if it’s in 2007 or 2008, then not by a long shot does it make any sense.
Be Kind Rewind is not without pleasures. When the Mike and Jerry duo are shooting their remakes, it’s funny. The best one is easily the first experiment with Ghostbusters. The film’s biggest laugh comes when Mike runs up to Jerry with his video camera and says “I’m Dan Aykroyd, you’re everyone else.” Mos Def and Jack Black are better when their characters are making these tapes than when they are actually playing Mike and Jerry themselves. All of the characters in general are virtually one-dimensional and are hindered further by lukewarm performances.
Be Kind Rewind is a missed opportunity that can’t sustain any momentum for more than a few minutes. The films strengths- a witty concept and a few hard-earned laughs- are far outweighed by its weaknesses- mundane, vacuous storytelling, an overall lack of enthusiasm from all sides, and the requirement for the viewer to make a big stretch from reality to near fantasy. Coming from such a visionary director like Michel Gondry, Be Kind Rewind is a major disappointment, especially when one sees the potential here slowly dissipate as a result of poor execution.