Monday, March 10, 2008

Mini-Review: Be Kind Rewind

Robocop gets Sweded - Don't Tell Verhoeven!

Michel Gondry's latest film can't match up to the extra-depressing bout of romantic whimsy that was Science of Sleep, anymore than that film could match up to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Eternal Sunshine was the combination of Charlie Kaufman's best script to date and Gondry's breathtaking direction with a cast that was so deep that Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo were somewhere around 6th or 7th billed. Rewind, by contrast, was written by Gondry, apparently in a less unhappy mood than Science of Sleep, and thus features awkward pacing, awkward dialogue, and a terribly awkward performance by my current favorite leading lady of all-time (Mia Farrow). But Jack Black, Mos Def, and the ever-reliable Danny Glover manage to overcome all of Gondry's self-inflicted awkwardness and, with the help of Gondry-the-director's endless supplies of energy and innovation, make this a charming and nostalgic paean to filmmaking.

The plot is pretty ridiculous: Jack Black erases all of the videos at the rental store owned by Danny Glover and managed by his adoptive son Mos Def, after a freak electrical station sabotage accident. Longtime customer Mia Farrow shows up looking for Ghostbusters, threatens to call the out-of-town Glover if there's anything wrong with the store, and voila, a collection of threads tenuously related to a plot is born: Jack Black and Mos Def have to start making their own versions of the films the customers want, since there's no way to replace the outdated VHS tapes (they call this process, for no clear reason, "Sweding").

Most of this film's fun resides in the hilarious versions of Ghostbusters, Rush Hour 2, Driving Miss Daisy, Robocop, and others that Black and Def make for their avid fans. The frame story is considerably less interesting and only fitfully coherent, but it too ends up being worth watching, with a surprising combination of heart-warming elements that depend a bit too heavily on nostalgia but manage to gain a surprising amount of emotional heft.

One final note: As you might expect, a representative of the movie studios does eventually show up in an attempt to halt the Sweding process. In an all-too brief cameo, that representative is played by the actress who used to hold the title currently held by Mia Farrow. Enjoy.

No comments: