The Oscars were on Sunday, and while much of Hollywood was celebrating some of its greatest achievements, one movie was making fun of them.
That film is the newly released “Be Kind Rewind”, from the surreal mind of writer/director Michel Gondry. Gondry is most well known for making offbeat music videos for artists such as Daft Punk and Bjork, as well as helming 2004’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”
Gondry’s latest venture stars Jack Black and Mos Def as friends who, through a quirky series of events, find themselves making their own versions of popular movies.
“Be Kind Rewind” focuses on a struggling video rental store that rents out what can only be described as the children of nostalgia, VHS tapes. The store is run by an old man, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), and his young protege, Mike (Mos Def), who are enthralled with their community of Passaic, N.J., and the fact that one of the jazz greats, Fats Waller, was born in their very shop.
Eventually, Mr. Fletcher leaves for a weeklong celebration of Fats’ life and leaves Mike in charge. Despite high hopes for impressing his mentor, Mike begins to struggle when his friend, Jerry (Jack Black), inadvertently erases all the tapes after becoming magnetized from trying to sabotage a power plant. Soon, one of the most loyal customers of the store demands a copy of Ghostbusters, leaving Jerry and Mike with no choice but to shoot the movie themselves.
Surprisingly to them, not to the audience, the community loves Jerry and Mike’s “sweded” versions of popular movies, such as “Rush Hour 2”, or “The Lion King and 2001: A Space Odyssey.” However, when Mr. Fletcher returns, so does the MPAA with legal documents claiming some billion dollars of copyright infringement and thousands of years of jail time. This leaves Mr. Fletcher with an indelible debt that he must pay or lose the store.
It’s obvious from this plotline that Gondry was looking for an excuse to make his own versions of movies. The story hangs loosely by a thread, but that’s OK. I don’t think anybody in the theater was there to see an incredible screenplay or to delve into the minds of complex characters. Instead, the most enjoyable part of the film is the concept of recreating classic movies as cheaply and shoddily as possible. It appeals to the little kids in all of us who found mom’s video camera and wanted to make a movie. Not only that, but it’s interesting to see what kind of camera “tricks” Mike and Jerry use to achieve effects. Sometimes these tricks work wonderfully, other times they are just blatantly horrible, but that is the charm of the film.
Within these recreations of the movies, “Rewind” makes several jabs at Hollywood that are subtle enough not to distract. The MPAA is depicted as a soulless, corporate, money grubber that is just doing its job but that also manages to suck the fun out of a community that has rallied around a small time video rental store. The film also manages to deliver a message to Hollywood that visual effects and grandiose sets aren’t what make a story great, but rather a certain charm about the films.
“Rewind” takes shots at the longer running times of today’s films, with their fan base often enjoying their movies that clock in at 20 minutes or less. In a sense, “Be Kind Rewind” is trying to tell the audience that it’s much more fun to make movies than it is to watch them. It’s a call to arms for all the imaginative dreamers out there who can throw a video camera over their shoulders and get a few friends to act. Gondry wants people not only to love movies, but also to love making them as much as he does.
However, it’s hard to say that “Be Kind Rewind” is a great film. Its pace is slow until Mike and Jerry start making their own movies, and admittedly the plot is paper-thin. Sometimes the acting seems over the top and at times the characters seem a little offbeat just for the sake of it. The ending is cheesy but I didn’t really mind. This isn’t a movie that will ever make the American Film Institute top 100, but it doesn’t try to pretend it will either. “Rewind” is entertaining to watch, but that’s about it.
The best way to describe the feel of “Be Kind Rewind” is that it’s a movie you’d watch on a rainy day, or when you’re sick, or when you don’t feel like dealing with the emotional baggage of a more serious flick. It makes you feel good, it makes you laugh consistently, but it’s not an example of breakthrough anything. It is what it is and that’s something that “Be Kind Rewind” accepts. I came out of this movie having seen exactly what I expected to see. There’s no real reason to bash the film, but there’s no reason to celebrate loudly either. In the end, anybody who loves movies, loves making movies or has felt an inkling of either will probably enjoy this light-hearted film
This review was originally published in the Collegiate Times, the student newspaper of Virginia Tech. Read the original publication.