“Be Kind Rewind,” a film about geeks who star in their own home movies, is being distributed by New Line Cinema. That makes sense. Remember, this is the same studio where indie icons like Sam Raimi and John Waters got their start making cheap sleaze-fests like “The Evil Dead” and “Pink Flamingos.” Then Wes Craven made a little film called “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” which transformed New Line into a box-office champion. After that, people started calling it “The House That Freddy Built.”
That’s what “Be Kind Rewind” is all about – films that turn an odd little business into a successful one. It’s a lot more complicated than it sounds, though. (Or maybe it isn’t, depending on your point of view.) The unlikely heroes in this movie shoot remakes of everything from “King Kong” to “Driving Miss Daisy” to “Rush Hour 2,” but since there isn’t enough money for costly Panavison cameras, they have to improvise with a little RCA camcorder that looks like it belongs in the Smithsonian.
In other words, these guys celebrate the future of cinema by filming movies that have already been made? I guess so…and what’s wrong with that? The funny thing about “Be Kind Rewind” is how it manages to be thoughtful and unoriginal at the same time. Andy Warhol, whose goofy remakes of “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” became cult classics, once asked: “Why should I be original? Why can’t I be non-original?”
Mos Def plays Mike, a friendly clerk at a New Jersey video store run by Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover). Mike’s job isn’t always as simple as he’d like: He’s got this friend named Jerry (Jack Black), who’s more than a little prone to accidents. Mr. Fletcher doesn’t like having him around his store, where accidents are apparently waiting to happen. (He’s certain the building will fall if anybody slams the front door.)
The more we know about Mike and Jerry, the more amazed we are by the trouble they get into. For reasons too strange to explain here (something about him being magnetized), Jerry inadvertently erases Mr. Fletcher’s tapes. Worst of all, they don’t make VHS anymore and replacements are hard to find.
They have a problem when one of their customers (Mia Farrow) comes along and says she wants to rent “Ghostbusters.” What can they do? Mike gets an idea: Why don’t they just make another “Ghostbusters”? With a little bit of luck, she’ll never know the difference. Maybe. But what about all those underwhelming props, like flying tinsel on strings?
As for their costumes, they find a crafty chick named Alma (Melonie Diaz) to help them out. Considering what Alma comes up with, the Academy made a big mistake when “Be Kind Rewind” was overlooked for Best Achievement in Costume Design.
This is a movie with enough skill to rise above its own craziness. There’s a fine line between inventiveness and idiocy – dreamlike plots like the one in “Be Kind Rewind” are as perfect as a balancing act. The night I saw it, there were lots of cinephiles in the audience: They’d seen movies like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Carrie,” “Boyz n the Hood” and “Men in Black” before, but seeing the Mike and Jerry versions felt like an entirely new experience. It’s easy to understand why they couldn’t contain their love and applause. Neither will you.
Well said, Dave. I especially love the on-screen chemistry of the films main three stars. I think it goes a long day in making this movie thrive. Sure, Glover and Farrow are strong in supporting roles, but it is on the strength of Def, Black and Diaz that “Be Kind, Rewind” is such a sleeper hit. This movie also makes you feel that Def is capable of much more in the future. His portrayal of Mike reminds me a bit of Brian O’Halloran’s performance as Dante in Clerks. He’s in such a fix, but eventually just gives in and ends up having a blast. All in all, this is a warm comedy that is great in small groups or even by yourself. Will you die laughing? No, but you will make you smile.
-Patrick Hickey Jr.