Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Be Kind, Rewind

Anyone familiar with Michael Gondry's work like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "The Science of Sleep" knows he specializes in what could best be described as "quirky" movies.  Or if you're less charitable you might call them downright weird.  So it's no surprise that "Be Kind, Rewind" follows in this tradition.  Since I didn't hate it, I guess I'll call it quirky.  Or maybe whimsical.

Another word would also be implausible.  There's maybe a .0000000001% chance that this could ever happen in real life.  First and foremost because though it takes place in the 21st century, the action revolves around videotapes.  Yes, honest to God VHS tapes!  In particular a backwards little store in Passaic, New Jersey that still rents videotapes for a buck.  The store has only one real customer, an old lady named Ms. Falewicz (Mia Farrow) who's friends with the owner Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover).

Another frequent visitor is Jerry (Jack Black) a conspiracy nut who lives in the nearby junkyard and has a beef with the power company for some reason.  Before he leaves for a trip to Kansas City, Mr. Fletcher tells his only employee Mike (Mos Def) to keep Jerry away from the store--and with good cause as it turns out.  One night Jerry decides to try sabotaging the power company and in the process magnetizes himself.  When Mike makes the mistake of letting Jerry into the story, all the videotapes are erased.  This becomes a real problem when Ms. Falewicz threatens to tattle on Mike to Mr. Fletcher unless she gets a copy of "Ghostbusters."

In desperation, Mike grabs an old video camera and Jerry and they reenact the movie with homemade props from the junkyard.  (Another of the probably implausible elements is that aren't commercial videotapes made so you can't record over them?)  When Mr. Falewicz's young charges see this, the parody movies become a neighborhood phenomenon.

But just as it seems they'll be able to save the video store from demolition, disaster strikes...

The overall story avoids some of the cliches in the old "plucky kids trying to save beloved landmark from crusty old developer" formula.  For one thing the developer isn't all that old or crusty.  Mostly I think this is a film that's supposed to be about how film and imagination can bring us together--or something like that.

As you might expect, the best parts of the movie are where Mike, Jerry, and new friend Ama are making their homemade movies, which they called "Sweded" for whatever reason.  The parodies of "Ghostbusters," "Rush Hour 2," and "Robocop" are hilarious and really make you wish the whole movie were simply composed of these instead of trying to have a story.  It reminds me when my siblings and I used to do riffs on "Star Wars" or "Star Trek" in the backyard.  You might be better off seeing if the official site for the movie is still working than watching the actual movie.

Other than that, Jack Black is a little more restrained than sometimes, which is a good thing.  As far as rapper-actors go Mos Def is at best the homeless man's Will Smith and has done better work in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and "The Italian Job" than his bland, befuddled character here.  They probably could have used a better actor for the Mike character, one who could play off Jack Black a bit more.  Oh well.

Still, this is good for a rental--on DVD of course.

That is all.

My score:  50/100 (2 stars)

Metacritic score:  52/100 (2 stars)

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