» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum

March 19, 2008
RATING: 5/10
According to me, Michele Gondry is very creative at putting together music videos, but he shouldn't bother making full-length films. According to everyone else I know, Gondry burst forth from the head of Orson Welles with camera in hand. I was prepared to accept that divergence, seeing as how my position of Gondry stood on shaky ground to begin with, having only seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which I loved) and The Science of Sleep (which I loved to hate). But now, having taken in 75-percent of his feature filmography (having skipped the universally-deplored Human Nature), I can say with conviction that although Gondry seems to have heeded critics' advice and made a film that's more accessible to those of us not keen on sitting through an arts-and-crafts show, he still lands consistently far off the mark set by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Gondry's newest endeavor, Be Kind Rewind, is probably the most unsettling film I have ever seen. By that I don't mean "unsettling" as in that part in American History X where that guy bites the curb and Ed Norton stomps on his head. I mean "unsettling" as in finding filet mignon and caviar in your #4 meal from McDonald's. Having psyched yourself up for an additive-enhanced meal that may very well affect both your short-term and long-term health, that mindset would be hard to balance with a palate-pleasing taste of elegance. Be Kind Rewind is a mixture of fun, DIY-style, cardboard Gondry stuff, and one of the worst plots ever. Don't believe me? Consider Jack Black getting magnetized as the result of doing something vague with microwaves and then inadvertently erasing every tape in the video shop in which his pal Mike (Mos Def) works. To avoid the consequences of a business full of useless product, the two set about filming their own version of Ghostbusters (complete with Sta-Puf Marshmallow Man) on the blank tape. Nobody's fooled, but - surprise! - people actually liked their "Sweded" version, and within, like, a day, demand gets so high that they're remaking films left and right. Their self-made replacement stock is referred to as "Sweded," per their claim that longer wait times for rentals are due to importing the films from Sweden.

The montages of Jerry (Jack Black) and Mike's productions is the stuff viral YouTube videos are made of. Don't get me wrong, it's funny stuff. And if Be Kind Rewind was, say, 90-percent Sweded footage and 10-percent Gondry plot material, we might have a cult favorite on our hands, if not a mainstream one. As it turns out, movies that have been ingrained in our cultural memory, whether we know it or not, are loads of fun to watch reenacted in extremely low quality. We're enjoying them just as much as the line of people outside Mike's video store, that is, until the mean old plot comes back into the mix. I couldn't help thinking during the far too long scene in which Jerry "pees out" his "magnetization" (don't worry, you'll be able to see the attractive river of glowing urine in its full glory), "Gee, you know what? I bet during the man hours it took to film this scene, Gondry could have made a really funny montage of Mike and Jerry's version of Saving Private Ryan." But, horrors! Instead we have ages and ages of an embarrassingly stupid plot about an old analog store that finds itself overwhelmed in the age of digital technology. I suppose that the idea of a neighborhood coming together to make their own versions of the world's cinematic greats carries some sort of poignancy, but in execution it ends up being slow and awkward.

Mos Def as Mike, "Sweding" the film Ghostbusters.

I don't know whether Jim Carrey is the perfect vessel for a straight man/silly man character and that's why Eternal Sunshine was able to pull realism and fantasy together so well, but Black and the always adorable Mos Def are impossible to take seriously when audiences are required to do so. And even if they were brilliant, comic geniuses, only so much can be done with a bad script. I can't for the life of me figure out why Gondry, who clearly loves to quirk his way around a fantasy world, didn't just stick to a series of vignettes, held together by the barest traces of plot. Instead, we're subjected to about eight times as much boring, empty material that tries really hard to be laden with morality. And the worst thing about it is that the film is clearly well directed. That's the filet mignon in your #4 meal. How do you mentally process something that's directed like it has some sort of artistic value yet is entirely full of fluff? If you finally get a couple of guys to really do justice to the nonsensical style that is your trademark, why not make the film consist almost entirely of those scenes? Why not just start up a rabid YouTube following?

Luckily for Be Kind Rewind, the funny parts are so intensely funny that they impart a warm glow over the whole cinematic experience. Moviegoers are much more likely to remember the little Mike and Jerry productions* than they are Danny Glover droning on about something or other. In fact, even trying to pan it has made me feel like trying to find Be Kind Rewind clips online. I'd sacrifice more than a few minutes to be able to watch Jack Black dressed like an old lady, hitting Mos Def across the head with a handbag, and calling him "Hokey."** It's these tender moments that salvage Be Kind Rewind by identifying an obvious love and respect for movies old and new. I can hang with that, sure. I'll just skip over the dumb parts -- that is, if this movie betrays its own VHS-loyalties and comes out on DVD. That's a pretty risky little game, Gondry. A risky game.

RELATED: The film's official trailer, after being Sweded by Gondry.

*Mike and Jerry are helped throughout and have their skins saved more than once by neighborhood girl Alma (Melonie Diaz), who does just as much work on the projects as both of them together, yet is rarely referred to in the same breath as Mike and Jerry. How much do you want to bet that some production assistant of Michele Gondry's is drawing some unflattering parallels right now?

**Driving Miss Daisy, duh.

SEE ALSO: www.bekindmovie.com

Susan Howson
A staff writer attending graduate school in Richmond, VA, Susan Howson cannot be persuaded to stop talking about movies.

See other articles by Susan Howson.



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