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Arts and Entertainment

Movie Review: Be Kind Rewind

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Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema

If you think you know what Be Kind Rewind is all about, you're probably mistaken. The film's advertising would lead you to believe that it's a raucous comedy about two losers forced to re-make classic films on a zero budget to hilarious effect. While that's certainly a major plot point, it only exists to serve what I think is the film's subtext. Namely, Be Kind Rewind is a film about filmmaking and, more specifically, it's a film about the tight communities that form around the making of a film. It's a daffy ode to the hard work, compromise and wild invention that making a movie inevitably requires. Anyone who's ever made a low-budget film will love it.

As the film opens, we find Mike (Mos Def) working as a clerk in Mr. Fletcher's (Danny Glover) positively ancient video store (ancient as in they still have VHS instead of DVD). Jerry (Jack Black) is Mike's seemingly psychotic friend, a frequent and unwelcome visitor to the store. If the movie has a weak point, it's in Black's initial, half-crazed characterization of Jerry. There was a point in our culture when wearing foil hats and suffering from intense paranoia and delusions was a quaint peculiarity. Today, it signals "person with a profound mental disorder who should probably be avoided or steered towards serious medical assistance."

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Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema

Thankfully, Black mellows as the plot begins to unfold. That's probably due(very minor spoiler if you haven't seen the commercials) to the zillion volts of electricity that pass through his body one night at a power plant and completely magnetize him. It's that same magnetization that erases the video store's entire inventory the next day when Jerry confusedly stumbles into the store. Mike is naturally horrified by the damage done by Jerry. Mr. Fletcher had left him in charge while he was out of town and now it appears the very worst has happened. Jerry, on the other hand, sees the disaster as something that can easily be remedied: they'll just re-make the movies.

Here again, the film's advertising is a little deceptive because it would have you believe that this plan goes off perfectly and that people buy into Jerry and Mike's charade. They don't. Everyone immediately realizes that they're watching horrible knock-offs but they really don't care. The passion and invention in the movies is what attracts them. In fact, a rabid fan base soon develops around the "sweded movies" (what Jerry dubs their re-makes) and the video store begins to overflow with customers submitting requests for additional movies that they'd like to see sweded. Success, it would seem, has finally come to this dying place.

Of course--it is a movie after all--trouble intercedes again. I won't get into what that trouble is because it's one of director Michel Gondry's more direct and poignant jabs at corporate America. How it's resolved is almost poetic and serves the story's deeper subject about filmmaking and community. In the end, I liked this movie a lot more than I expected to in the beginning. Jack and Mos Def work perfectly together and Melonie Diaz is an outright find as their dizzy co-conspirator. A pronounced silliness invades almost every frame of the movie so I imagine many will dismiss it as mere froth, but for me it completely worked. After losing me with Human Nature, getting me with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and then losing me for a second time with The Science of Sleep, the great visual prankster Gondry has me back again with Be Kind Rewind.