Length: 101 minutes
Director: Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; The Science of Sleep)
Writer: Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (story); The Science of Sleep)
Starring: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Sigourney Weaver, Mia Farrow, Melonie Diaz, Marcus Carl Franklin, Paul Dinello, Irv Gooch, Heather Lawless, Matt Walsh, Jon Glaser, Kid Creole
Michel Gondry is a director of limitless imagination and a vision that could only be compared to sometime collaborator Charlie Kaufman. Gondry has been fascinated with dreamlike images since his days directing groundbreaking music videos for the likes of Daft Punk and Björk (“Bachelorette” and “Human Behaviour” are two of the greatest videos ever). After an awkward debut with “Human Nature” (based on a weak Kaufman script), Gondry proved any naysayers dead wrong with his masterpiece “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (for which he and Kaufman both won Oscars for their work on the screenplay). Following up such a beloved cult classic was tough and Gondry made a bold decision to write & direct a very personal and very out there dream “romantic” comedy called “The Science of Sleep”- a movie that seems to fall in the “love it or hate it” category with most people. I thought it was wonderful and the film, being his first without Kaufman, showed that Gondry was willing to take risks and willing to let his imagination become his narrative. The movie may have had it’s minor flaws, but it’s one of those films that gets better with each viewing and more appreciated- if you didn’t care so much for it the first time try watching it again. You may get more at what the director was going for. And so that brings us to Gondry’s fourth film, “Be Kind Rewind”, which is unlike any of his prior films. Why? Because despite it’s eccentric plot, it’s Gondry’s most accessible and commercial film to date- it’s less out there than even “Eternal Sunshine” was. It follows a completely linear storyline, doesn’t vary over into weirdsville too often, and has Jack Black, well, doing his Jack Black schtick in it. It’s more of a lark than a step forward. Those expecting an expansion of the progressive work he was doing with “Science of Sleep” may be disappointed, then again maybe the lukewarm receptions for "Sleep" is why he choose this as his next project. It’s a safe choice and it’s poor showing at the box office is puzzling. The movie will most likely find a nice home now that it’s finally coming out on DVD. Those who weren’t willing to take a chance on it in the theaters (the poster, admittedly, doesn’t make it look like a very intelligent picture). Jerry (Black) and Mike (rapper Mos Def- in a role originally intended for Dave Chappelle) work at an independently owned Video Rental Store in a big city. The stubborn owner (Danny Glover) refuses to stock DVDs and the store is slowly going out of business due to the chain store across the street that only carries DVDs. The owner goes out of town and leaves Mike in charge, warning him not let the irresponsible Jerry near the store during his absence. Mike ignores the warning and Jerry, a victim of some sort of magnetizing accident (you have to see the movie to understand), accidentally erases every video in stock. What to do? Particularly when one of the owner’s friends (Mia Farrow- still weird to see without Woody Allen around) comes in and wants to rent a VHS copy of “Ghostbusters” for her teenage son. Unable to locate a copy, Mike and Jerry opt to film their own version (“She’s never seen a science-fiction movie!”, Jerry rationalizes, “She’ll probably think they’re all twenty minutes long”. Mike agrees, “If we stand far enough back then she won’t recognize us”). She comes in the next day and rents the video and wouldn’t you know it? Her kids loved it and they want more. Pretty soon the entire neighborhood wants more and Jerry and Mike and their crew- a pretty Latin dry cleaner (Melonie Diaz) and a homeless man (Irv Gooch) are hard at work trying to meet the supply and demand. Of course, the city officials and some studio lawyers lead by the heartless Ms. Lawson (Sigourney Weaver) want to tear the store down unless they can come up with enough money to meet building regulations. If they can’t come up with the money then the store will have to be re-located to the projects. Gondry and the cast have fun here and after a relatively slow start so does the audience, the energy is hard to shake off. The re-creations of the films are almost impossible not to laugh at and instead of being a one-joke premise, the core of the movie is really about the love of movies in general and people’s interpretations of them. It’s a movie that is flawed for sure, but done with such love and care that you just can’t help but love it. Gondry, I’m sure, has some bizarre new project that’s ready to push some film boundaries in the wings, but it was pleasant enough for him to make something that could appeal to a wide audience and in turn make them laugh and realize why they love movies to begin with.