Lowdown: A call to bring the heart back to art.
Once upon a time not that long ago there was this film called Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that was just so good it was the second best film I’ve seen in a few years (the firsts being The Lord of the Rings trilogy). So when I’ve heard that director Michel Gondry has a new flick out featuring a lot of that Spotless Mind spice, I wanted to watch it.
Be Kind Rewind is unmistakably the result of the same brains as Spotless: It’s quirky and eccentric in nature, and it includes science fiction like elements that are there not to impress us with their ingenuity but allow the delivery of the film’s main agenda – exactly what science fiction should be.
The story revolves around a small time video rental shop that still does VHS and only VHS, despite everyone else moving to DVD. The aptly named Be Kind Rewind, located in a soon to be demolished building in New Jersey, is owned by a slightly delusional Danny Glover (who is certainly made to look like he’s too old for this shit by the director). Glover employs two nerdy kids to run his shop, Mos Def and Jack Black, as he tries to give his shop that special nostalgic aroma by telling everybody some jazz star was born there.
The film’s main focus is on Def and Black. Black believes the power company residing next to his trailer home is some sort of an oppressor, so he decides to give them their own medicine and arrange a short circuit. Things go wrong, though, when Def has second thoughts and leaves Black behind; Black gets electrocuted, which does not seem to have too much an effect on him at first: he’s only slightly more weird than he was before. It does, however, have a lasting effect on Be Kind Rewind’s video cassettes: they all go blank as Black passes next to them. Quickly enough, renters knock of the shop’s door complaining.
Our duo decides on an interesting tactic: They shoot their own versions of the films. Sure, their versions are shorter and they’re the only actors, but that shouldn’t be a problem, should it? Not to mention the production values. They start off with their version of Ghost Busters, move on to Rush Hour 2, and continue with many other titles. They use simple means instead of the originals’ sophisticated special effects (most notably a washing machine to simulate the revolving space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey and a car radiator to simulate Robocop). The results are surprisingly good: they’re funny because of the way they are made, but they seem to capture the films’ essences none the less. The results are so good that Def and Black’s endeavors soon earn them cult status, with queues of people waiting to make their “special version” requests and rent others that were already remade despite the cost of $20 a pop for a VHS rental.
Be Kind Rewind is obviously a call for the movie industry to rewind back to what really matters. The VHS vs. DVD analogy as well as the poor production values of the home made films is basically a call to drop off the high costing special effects laden films and go back to what really matters, the same way that Glover's shop is really better than the heartless chains renting films they have no clue about. The message is very well delivered, and with the film's eccentric nature it is delivered in an entertaining manner, too. Although a slightly less esoteric nature would have probably meant more success for Be Kind Rewind at the box office, the entire point is it not conforming with industry standards. And yes, the alternative movie versions are pretty funny!
Even the film’s ending is great, taking us back to reality; it's not another manufactured happy ending. Sure, Be Kind Rewind is not Spotless Mind good, but it’s very good on its own rights; a film that demonstrates what films should be like; a film that is definitely not another run of the mill production.
Best scene: Sigourney Weaver comes busting into Be Kind Rewind as a lawyer representing the film studios. Hurting by our kids’ endeavours to shoot their own versions of the studios’ films, as she tells the shopkeepers, the damages from these escapades are expected to be around three and a half billion dollars worth. One may laugh, but sadly it would be a very realistic laugh the way the studios and the recording industry have been behaving.
Overall: Be Kind Rewind is quirky, very funny, and leaves you with something to think about. It’s a 3.5 star film, but I liked it enough to give it 4 out of 5 stars.