Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Be Kind Rewind

Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 1/19/09 w/ Additional Edits.

Written and directed by Michel Gondry, Be Kind Rewind tells the story of a junkyard worker whose attempts to sabotage a power plant goes haywire. When he accidentally creates a magnetic field, he goes to his best friend's video store and accidentally erases the contents of the video tapes. In order to keep the store going, they create new versions of the films that become cult hits only to later deal with authorities. The film explores not just Gondry's love of spontaneity but also his themes of imagination and innocence told through a couple of bumbling men. Starring Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Mia Farrow, Melonie Diaz, and Sigourney Weaver. Be Kind Rewind is a funny, imaginative, and heartwarming film from Michel Gondry.

In Passaic, New Jersey, a man named Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) runs a VHS-rental video store with his assistant Mike (Mos Def). The two muse about jazz musician Fats Waller whom Mr. Fletcher claims was born in the building where he runs the video store. One of the regulars who attends the store is Mike's klutzy friend Jerry (Jack Black) who often causes accidents while wanting to sabotage a nearby power plant. With the video store losing money and in danger of being demolished to become a condo unless Mr. Fletcher can provide money. Mr. Fletcher decides to go out of town for several days to attend a Fats Waller memorial with Mike running the store with his order to keep Jerry out of the story. Unfortunately, Jerry's attempt to sabotage the power plant went badly where he goes to the video store unknowingly erasing all of the content of the video tapes.

When one of the store's regular customers in Mrs. Falewicz (Mia Farrow) wants to see Ghostbusters, Mike and Jerry decide to make their own version with cheap special effects and the two playing the characters themselves. When another customer wanted to see Rush Hour 2, Mike and Jerry make their own version where they get help from a local named Alma (Melonie Diaz) to help. The film versions they created have become successful as Mike, Jerry, and Alma decide to create their own versions of the films as the demands suddenly increase with the community being involved. When Mr. Fletcher returns to the store, he reveals that he's planning to get the store going as a DVD-rental place.

For Mike, it's disheartening but Jerry and Alma press on where they make more to Mr. Fletcher's surprise as the films they make help raise money to save the story. When a couple of bailiffs (Sigourney Weaver and Paul Dinello) arrive, they decided to have the tapes destroyed due to copyright infringement forcing the store's future to look even bleaker with Mr. Fletcher revealing some harsh truths. Yet, it would take an entire community to rally for one final hurrah to save the store as it's time is running out.

The film is about two things in one whole film. One is the decline of the VHS-rental, mom-and-pop video stores and the rise of corporate, DVD-rental chains. The other is about a community rallying together to watch and make home films of the movies they always wanted to be in and such. While some of the film's humor might seem a little childish with a few moments that don't work along with the script often delving into conventional and sentimental territory. Yet, Michel Gondry manages to create a film that is filled with some of the thematic qualities of his work with innocence, light-humor, and heart in his script.

While the script has a nice story despite a few flaws, the direction that Gondry definitely raises the script's weakness with his imaginative presentation. Bringing his music video background to the forefront, Gondry truly is a director in his own world where he proves that anyone could make a film with shabby sets and such. Even in the use of home video cameras with night vision is an example of Gondry's unique vision. Even in one of the film's big moment, he goes for something that is black-and-white or scenes with one take for a movement of Mike, Jerry, and Alma making one film and then move to another. It's Gondry proving that he can create something whimsical with a lot of heart and humor for audiences who love the power of film and wish they can be in them in their own remakes.

Cinematographer Ellen Kuras does a wonderful job with the film's cinematography with the use of the home video camera with its grainy look and cheesy night vision along with scratchy black-and-white footage. Kuras' work is phenomenal in how she captures the look of Passaic, New Jersey in its actual location along with some wonderful nighttime exterior shots. Notably in the film's final scene with its sepia-like exterior and intimate, low-light interior scenes. Editor Jeff Buchanan does excellent work with the film's editing with rhythmic and jump-cuts to get the film moving in such a unique pace that it's all done leisurely and without going into style-over-substance. Production designer Dan Leigh along with set decorator Ron von Blomberg, and art director James Donahue do spectacular work with the film's set designs of the sets created for the film and cheesy special effects made for a homemade feel that looks wonderful and imaginative.

Costume designers Rahel Afiley and Kishu Chand do fantastic work with the costumes that are imaginative in the cheap remake versions of the films that are made, notably the Robocop suit that Jack Black wears in their remade version. Visual effects supervisor Fabrice Lagayette does an excellent job with the film's minimal special effects scenes like the buzzing screens and the scene where Jerry gets electrocuted by the power plant that would cause him to create a magnetic field. Sound editor Paul Hsu with mixer Pawel Wdowczak do excellent work with the film's sound effects and location sounds to create a whimsical atmosphere for the film. Music composer Jean-Michel Bernard brings a light-hearted, whimsical score to play up to the film's humor and heartfelt moments with smooth, elegant arrangements. The soundtrack consists of music from Fats Waller, the Gap Band, Ray Parker Jr., Billy Preston, and other jazz cuts to complement the film's devotion to jazz.

The casting by Jeanne McCarthy is excellent for its casting choices that includes Arjay Smith as a local DVD store owner named Manny, Chandler Park as Mrs. Falewicz's nephew Craig, Paul Dinello as a bailiff, Irv Gooch as a mechanic named Wilson, and I'm Not There star Marcus Carl Franklin as a local kid. Sigourney Weaver is excellent in a cameo-like role as a bailiff who shuts down the store while Mia Farrow is great as a neighbor/loyal customer who is amazed by the remakes as she finds hope in them. Danny Glover is wonderful as Mr. Fletcher, an elderly video store owner trying to deal with changing times and developments as he thinks about conforming while trying to salvage whatever hopes and dreams he have.

Melonie Diaz is brilliant as Alma, a local girl who originally becomes an actress and later help run the video store with rules as Diaz's performance truly shines. Even as she steals scenes from the always boisterous Jack Black where Diaz has great chemistry with both Black and Def. Mos Def is wonderful as Mike, the straight man who is trying to save a video store for Mr. Fletcher while becoming an unlikely visionary in the films he and Jack Black make. Def is more restrained that Black while having a few funny moments in his performance. Jack Black is very good in his usual Jack Black-type of character as a clumsy, boisterous, and innocent character who likes to play around and be the funny guy. Yet, Black wisely under play his persona in order to give his co-stars more to do while being the typical funny guy. Though it's a typical performance from Black, it's one that works for what the film is needed and only a guy like Jack Black could play a character like Jerry.

While the film doesn't live up to the brilliance of films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or The Science of Sleep, Be Kind Rewind is still an entertaining, funny, and heartwarming film from Michel Gondry. While fans of Gondry's work will enjoy his imaginative vision and thematic quality, the film doesn't exactly live up to expectations in comparison to his previous films. Still, Gondry does manage to make something that is enjoyable to watch thanks in part to the cast led by Jack Black and Mos Def. In the end, Be Kind Rewind is a whimsical film from Michel Gondry that plays up to his themes of innocence and imagination.

Michel Gondry Films: Human Nature - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Dave Chapelle's Block Party - The Science of Sleep - Tokyo!: Interior Design - (The Thorn in the Heart) - The Green Hornet - The We & the I - Mood Indigo - (Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?) - (Microbe & Gasoline)

© thevoid99 2013

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