Director – Michel Gondry
Writer – Michel Gondry
Starring – Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Mia Farrow, Melonie Diaz
For anyone who knows me and my movie tastes you will know what I am about to say relating to this film and for any of you who don’t; I am a huge fan of Michel Gondry. For Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind alone he sits firmly in my list of favourite directors. Now he brings us a slice of his mind in the form of Be Kind Rewind, an endearing and well intentioned comedy but one that ultimately falls very short of the usual quality of Mr Gondry’s work.
A man, who accidentally becomes magnetized after attempting to sabotage a local power plant, unintentionally erases all the tapes in his friend’s video store. In order to satisfy the customers of the store, the pair decides to shoot their own version of the films which include Ghostbusters, Robocop and The Lion King.
It may be a bit unfair for me to compare Gondry’s latest offering with his masterpiece Eternal Sunshine, or to compare the work of any director to each other. But it’s something when a director has released something in their past career of such high quality it’s inevitable that comparison is going to take place. It’s not that Be Kind Rewind just pales in comparison to Eternal Sunshine, it’s just on it’s own it’s not the greatest of movies. It has too many problems along its overly long 101 minute runtime for me too label it anything higher than ‘pretty good’.
On the positive side of things, firstly Jack Black and Mos Def are very fun and watchable and work surprisingly well together. I never would have thought, just by thinking of the two actors, that they would even end up in a movie together never mind the dynamic between the two actually working. Def plays the straighter, more focused of the two, almost like the side of writer/director Gondry’s brain that tells him he needs some sort of straight-and-narrow mentality for general audiences to grasp it (something which his last film The Science of Sleep definitely did not have). Black, however, is the counterbalance to this side of Gondry’s brain and is the representation of the ambition, the willingness and the creativity that he so deeply harbours and loves to express in any and every which way he can. There is a fair amount of this attitude present in Be Kind Rewind, particularly in the creativity of the scenes involving the characters remaking the famous movies. No movie is safe from Be Kind Rewind and Michel Gondry; everything from Ghostbusters to The Lion King, Robocop to Rush Hour 2 make an appearance. Even such unlikely candidates as Driving Miss Daisy and 2001: A Space Odyssey get “sweded” (the name the film gives to the films that get ‘remade’). These are the scenes in which the film is most enjoyable and also where the most ingenuity and creativity is stored. It’s amazing, on a technical level, how they remake the movies within the film, using everything from Christmas tinsel as the Ghostbusters equipment to a rotating cardboard box for the spaceship in 2001. I only wish that the movie had stuck with this idea virtually from beginning to end and not let itself get bogged down in an unnecessary extra storyline.
The film would have been a thing to cherish in it’s entirety if they hadn’t thrown in extra storylines and plot threads that just bog everything down and get in the way of what I thought was the point of the film. It’s supposed to be about a couple of guys remaking classic movies because all the tapes get ruined, and to begin with that’s what it is about, but then they keep referencing (and ultimately give most attention to) a storyline about an old jazz singer who was born near the video store. It seemed as if they literally lifted a storyline from another movie and attempted to cram it into Be Kind Rewind, a movie which otherwise would have been revered for years to come.
As a result of this unnecessary extra storyline and the concentration it gets by the film’s end, it gets overly cheesy and sentimental. I understand this was an attempt to give the film an injection of extra heart for anyone looking for more than the film at first promised to be but in my personal opinion they went a few steps too far with that aspect.
I normally have no problem with a long-ish runtime of a movie. But with a movie like this I felt that the over 100 minute runtime was about 10-15 minutes too long, it easily could have been shaven down to around 90 minutes to make the film a lot tighter and more enjoyable. It’s not a major issue for the film, the biggest one having been already mentioned, but it was something that I did noticed.
Be Kind Rewind may have it’s fair share of problems; it’s loo long, it doesn’t deliver fully what it promised and there is one storyline too many going on at the same time but what it is is endearing, laugh out loud funny a lot of the time and the film as a whole has enough charm and originality for me to recommend. It’s not what I was hoping for but a film worth checking out.