Be Kind, Rewind Review
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Every day, piles of press releases show up in my inbox. Typically, I skim through them for a second or two before filing them in a folder somewhere, never to be read again. But about a year ago, when I got a press release that writer/director Michel Gondry (the quirky filmmaker known for The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the perplexing The Science of Sleep) was making a movie with Jack Black and Mos Def, I was intrigued. When I read on—and found that the movie was about a couple of guys who erase all of the VHS tapes in the video store and try to remake the movies themselves—I was sold.

And had Be Kind, Rewind been just that, it would have had major mainstream potential. Because those moments are brilliant. They’re hilarious, and they’re incredibly well done. But that, unfortunately, is a surprisingly small (and even minor) part of the film.

The story isn’t as much about the movies as it is about Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), a video store owner whose run-down old building is about to be condemned. The money he makes from his old video store isn’t enough to pay for the required repairs, so he heads off to do a little research, leaving the shop in the hands of his faithful clerk, Mike (Def). While Mr. Fletcher is away, though, Mike’s friend, Jerry (Black), accidentally erases the tapes—so Mike and Jerry are forced to remake the movies to keep the store’s few remaining customers happy.

Be Kind, Rewind is, without a doubt, an imaginative film. But if you’re a fan of Jack Black’s movies, you’ll most likely be disappointed (and totally confused)—because it’s not the typical Jack Black movie. It’s definitely out there—but not in the way you’d probably expect. It’s not a goofy, over-the-top, stoner comedy. Instead, it’s a French-film kind of out there—a baffling and sometimes rather slow-moving kind of out there. And it’s sure to leave Jack Black’s fans scratching their heads.

Though it has some wonderful (and wonderfully funny) moments, Be Kind, Rewind tries to tackle way too many storylines. There’s the condemned-building story. And there’s the movie-remaking (a.k.a. “sweding”) story. But there’s also another story about a legendary jazz musician who was born in Mr. Fletcher’s building. There’s even some sort of a potential for romance between Mike and Alma (Melonie Diaz), their leading lady. Perhaps Gondry could have juggled them all, but he ended up putting too much emphasis on some of the less interesting parts and dropping some of the more interesting parts without warning. In the end, you’ll walk out of the theater wondering what just happened.

If you go to see Be Kind, Rewind expecting the wacky Jack Black comedy that the trailers make it out to be, you’ll definitely be disappointed. If you go into it with the understanding that it’s a comedy made by a rather esoteric filmmaker, however, you’ll enjoy it more—but you still won’t be entirely satisfied in the end.

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