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Be Kind Rewind - a devilish good time

By: Joe Wolf

Michel Gondry has found a place in the heart of anyone who has ever let their childhood aspirations get the best of them in his latest contribution to cinematic history, Be Kind Rewind.  Now, the plot maybe hard to swallow being that it is centered around two good friends attempting to save a video rental store/thrift shop by remaking several well-known films of the last 30 years, but simply put, it’s magical.

This video rental store, which is cleverly called Be Kind Rewind, is located in Passaic, New Jersey, where the famous jazz musician Fats Waller happens to be from.  In fact, according to a film that plays during the credit sequence, narrated by Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), Fats Waller was actually born in the exact building where Be Kind Rewind now stands.

Mr. Fletcher is the owner of this archaic establishment and along with his adopted counterpart, Mike (Mos Def); they run and live above Be Kind Rewind.  Jerry (Jack Black), the local nut who lives next door in the auto junkyard in his trailer, spends the majority of his days and nights at the shop spouting off his conspiracy theories to Mike and getting under the skin of Mr. Fletcher.

Mr. Fletcher decides to take a trip leaving Mike in charge of the store for a few days and ultimately creating the biggest fun-filled disaster since preschool.  Jerry, convinced that the power plant next to his trailer is “microwaving” his brain, becomes magnetized during a sabotage mission when he is violently electrocuted.  The following day he stumbles into the store and demagnetizes all the tapes leaving them blank.

When Mrs. Falewicz (Mia Farrow) shows up to return her overdue rental and rent another film, they tell her that they are reorganizing the store and convince her to come back several hours later.  Her rental selection, Ghostbusters, is the first of many films that are remade by the pair using an old VHS camcorder and the store full of now blank VHS tapes in a process that Jerry coins as “Sweding.”  Four hours later Mrs. Falewicz returns to pick up her rental just as Mike and Jerry are finishing their last shot.

The duos remakes of such films as 2001, A Space Odyssey, Boys in the Hood, and Rush Hour 2 become so popular that people begin to lineup outside the store to ask for the “Sweding” of their most favorite movies.  They hire Alma (Melonie Diaz), a young girl who works across the street, to help with shooting and to play the female parts in the films.  Upon Mr. Fletcher’s arrival back from his trip, he is surprised to find his store busier than it has been in years.  After he finds out the news of the unfortunate mishap he tells Mike, Jerry, and Alma that they will be switching their format over to DVD and downsizing their store as a result of the city’s threat of gentrification.

Mike and Jerry conceive a plan to raise enough money to save the store.  They get the entire town involved in making a documentary about jazz legend Fats Waller and show it off as their first original work.  On the night of the screening they accept donations and combining them with the money they collected from their “Sweding” escapades, they attempt to accumulate enough to keep Be Kind Rewind open.  The creation of props, costumes, and guerrilla filmmaking tactics used in the making of this documentary completely encompasses everything that makes a Gondry film so much fun to watch.  The element that saves Mr. Fletcher’s store from demolition and awakens the entire neighborhood into a frenzy of overjoyed excitement is in fact a movie; it really does not get much better than that.

Gondry’s use of Black in this film was brilliant.  He was able to utilize an actor whose energetic sensibility could be transformed into an amazing array of bit parts in the remaking of several Hollywood blockbusters.  Black’s concise, over-the-top caricatures of these characters were laugh out loud hilarious and at times better than the original characters themselves.  His performance overshadowed that of Mos Def’s, whose understated mild performance sometimes left you asking if he was really acting at all?  The rest of the ensemble cast definitely held the attention and created a real sense of the Jersey-born-and-bred mentality.

Moreover, Gondry's garish use of camera and editing tricks in this film help to convey that he is bringing back the idea of the auteur in this generation of filmmakers; a notion that the film is a personal reflection of the director’s creative vision.  This is seen in Be Kind Rewind with the use of jump cuts and digital blurbs creating static lines across the screen.  In other films like The Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the use of elaborate puppet-like props and overt editing tricks making entire sets disappear, make these films truly identifiable as the works of Gondry.  He continues to embrace this fantastical cleverness in Be Kind Rewind, leaving the world to wonder what captivating enchantment is yet to be conjured up in his laboratory of magical realism.




All opinions expressed by Joe Wolf are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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